Quote of the Month

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

Friday, November 30, 2018

Follow One. Follow Two. Follow Three And More

During recess, after school and weekends children have been playing it for generations.  Follow the leader is a game of observation and physical and mental agility.  The premise is simple, but the goal can be challenging.  If you look around in the natural world, adults and their young instinctively play their own version.

It's a frequent sight in the spring to see a mother duck and her ducklings stopping traffic on roadways as they make their way toward water.  If you happen to see a row of black and white kits trailing behind their parent during a woodland walk, changing your direction is important.  It's never a good idea to be the target of frightened skunks.
A Parade Of Elephants (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, September 25, 2018) written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes is a day journey overflowing with delight.



Count them.  There are one, two, three, four, five elephants.  One in front of the other they move, all in a row.  They aren't walking, they're marching.  It's a parade!

Sometimes they travel in circles.  Nothing keeps them from marching; not even the hills on their path. Marching over a bridge and marching under palm fronds, all five elephants go.  A natural tunnel does not deter their goal.  Nose to tail they are connected like links on a chain.

Pausing is not an option for these pachyderms.  They keep on marching and marching and marching until a crescent moon begins to glow in the night sky.  They are finished for the day.

They are tired.  Each one yawns and stretches but they have one more thing to do before they can sleep.  It is a surprise of sheer wonder.

He is a master of making every single word meaningful.  His short concise sentences and phrases ring out and linger like a bell strike.  Kevin Henkes uses repetition superbly.  His introduction of colors, numbers, and concepts heightens the rhythm of his storytelling.  Here are two sentences.

Big and round
and round they are.
Big and round
and round they go.

The pastel, limited color palette of pink, green, purple, yellow and blue with soft chocolate brown for this book appears in all its precious glory on the opened dust jacket. The lift of the elephants' feet and their eyes signal their enjoyment in marching.  To the left, on the back, within a band of white the elephants happily move beneath a sun as butterflies keep them company.  Tiny leaves and flowers dot the ground.  On the front the text and elephants are varnished.

The book case is blue on the front and the back is pink with a wide, textured spine in brown.  A large elephant outlined in brown on the front is facing readers.  On the back, the elephant has his back to us.  On a canvas of the soft chocolate brown five butterflies and a sun with rays in pink are placed on the opening endpapers.  In blue on the closing endpapers are the crescent moon and a handful of five stars.  Beneath the text on the title page the five elephants march.  

The matte-finished paper accentuates the softness of Kevin Henkes's illustrations rendered in brown ink and gouache. The first two words are in huge multi-colored type filling the entire page.  The numbering of the elephants extends over two pages; five lines for the addition of each elephant.  This technique of rows is cared to the next two pages with the elephants marching in a larger band of white with a purple band above and below them.  

Kevin Henkes employs the band pattern throughout the book.  It fashions a marvelous flow for readers' eyes.  To elevate interest and pacing he inserts full page pictures and double-page images.  It's genius!

One of my favorite illustrations of many is when the concept of over and under appears.  Within a wide band at the top of the page the five elephants are crossing a stone bridge.  Yellow fish leap in the water below them.  The elephants are in constant motion.  Under this first band is a band of purple holding the text.  Along the bottom the five friends are marching through palm fronds.  Kevin Henkes changes the position of their legs and heads to supply more animation.

A Parade Of Elephants written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes is certain to become a favorite in your homes, classrooms and libraries; it will be welcome wherever it is read.  It is one of those books no one will mind reading five times a day or night before bedtime.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and private collections.

To learn more about Kevin Henkes and his other work, please visit his website by using the link attached to his name.  At the publisher's website a teaching guide is provided for this title and some of his other books.  At Kevin's website other resources are available for this book.  Please enjoy the book trailer.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

In Stillness

Slow down, please.  Now, stop.  Find a place to sit down.  Can you hear it?  What?  Nothing.  This is the sound of silence.  Everything and everyone are at rest.  Wrap yourself in it; feel the cozy comfort of being still.  Enjoy it.  Great things come from this state of being.

Sometimes we believe inactivity is a waste of time; a sign of the absence of accomplishments.  In truth, without it we fail to hear our heartbeat, the heartbeat of others and the beat of Earth's heart.  Quiet (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, October 9, 2018) written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola is a shared walk into serenity.

"My, oh my," the grandfather said.
"Everything is in such a hurry.

A grandfather is strolling with his granddaughter, grandson and family dog among flowers, leafy trees, buzzing bees, other insects and creatures cautiously watching them.  A flock of birds lifts into the air.  The children notice other living things in motion.

Their dog chases a thrown ball.  A nearby frog leaps into a pond.  Look at the trees!  Leaves rustle in a soft breeze.

At the suggestion of their grandfather they all walk toward a bench.  It's time to sit for a few minutes.  While they are there the grandfather points to the flock of birds, now settled in the tree branches.  The pooch has paused for a quick nap.  Residents of the pond are at rest.

Eyes closed the family is as still as everything around them.  Each member realizes quiet allows them to do certain things with ease.  Never underestimate the power of Quiet.

The word choices in the spare text of Tomie dePaola cast a spell of peace over all who read them. The verbs of motion provide a contrast to those representing stillness. An atmosphere of thankfulness permeates the entire walk and rest on the bench.  The grandfather in his conversation with his grandchildren asks them to be mindful of their surroundings.  Out of respect for him, they reply in kind.  Here is another sentence.

"And a dragonfly zooming over the water."

When you hold this book in your hands and look at the front of the opened dust jacket, a hush encompasses your soul.  The presence of white space acts as an element here and on all the pages inside the book.  The soft colors and fluid lines ask us to rest.  When we do, we notice the doves, ladybugs, rabbits, praying mantis on the lily stems and the dragonfly acting as a dot for the "i" in quiet.

Set on a canvas of pure white on the back, to the left, is a dragonfly quietly posed on a bent cattail.  This is extending from the lower, left-hand corner of the page.  The book case is a textured subdued, grass green.  Embossed on the front in metallic soft turquoise is the lily pad and flower seen on the front of the dust jacket.

The opening and closing endpapers are colored in a brighter spring green.  The white outline of a dragonfly in flight on the first and motionless on the second reflects the contents of the narrative.  On the initial title page, the family group is leaving their home.  They are in miniature along the bottom of the page with a large expanse of white above them.  We move in closer to them for the formal title page on a double-page picture.

Rendered in transparent acrylics and colored pencil the illustrations are a beautiful representation of the work of Tomie dePaola and the natural world we enter with this grandfather and his grandchildren.  There is much to see in the first double-page image.  A mole peeks from a hole.  A worm crawls along the grass.  Bees fly, a beetle crawls, a ladybug pauses with a praying mantis and a mother fox curls with two baby pups.

Tomie dePaola outlines each scene in a fine line but in some an element breaks that line giving a sense of motion or the continuation of the area beyond what we can see.  Other creatures are tucked into his images, snails, ants, a squirrel, and a butterfly.  Even in this calm we are accompanied.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a close-up of the dog napping.  This is a double-page picture.  To the left we can see a portion of the bench and the girl's purple dress, knee, hand, leg and shoe.  Looped under the bench is the dog's leash.  A single golden orange daylily curves to the right of the bench.  Stretched from the center of the left side, across the gutter and nearly to the edge of the right side is the dog.  He (she) is lying on his side, front paws extended back in front of the belly.  The back legs are out.  This is the essence of peace.

If you seek calm, Quiet written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola is a wise selection.  It is breathtaking in its simplicity.  After a read aloud with children or students, it would be interesting to have them speculate on the movements in nature in the other seasons of the year.  This is certain to promote conversations about the value of stillness.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Tomie dePaola and his extensive work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrations. Tomie is interviewed at Brightly about his work.  Author and teacher librarian Carter Higgins chats with Tomie about this title on her site, Design Of The Picture Book.  Be sure to stop by A Fuse # 8 Production hosted by Elizabeth Bird, Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system, for the cover reveal.  Tomie also chats about this title on NPR's Morning Edition and America The Jesuit Review.  The first is an audio interview and the second is a video interview with some scenes in Tomie's studio.  Enjoy the book trailer.  It's so lovely, you'll hardly be able to wait to hold the book in your hands.

Be Vigilant For Truth

There are those placed in any given situation with others who will observe more.  They will notice the smallest of details about the natural world, objects and the mannerisms of people.  In assessing all this information, they can answer questions, draw conclusions and make predictions.

Able to hone these skills with persistence and practice, they may choose to become scientists, veterinarians, sociologists or officers in law enforcement.  The Eye That Never Sleeps: How Detective Pinkerton Saved President Lincoln (Abrams Books For Young Readers, November 6, 2018) written by Marissa Moss with illustrations by Jeremy Holmes presents highlights of a remarkable life.  It focuses on one episode which most likely changed the course of history.

Allan Pinkerton wasn't any of those things.  Born in 1819, he grew up in one of the worst slums in Scotland. But he had sharp eyes, a quick mind, and a hunger for justice.

At an early age he started to devote his life to rights for workers.  He became a wanted man by the British government.  In fact, on his wedding day, he and his new bride fled the country, hidden on a vessel bound for the United States of America.  Upon their arrival in Chicago, he started a cooperage, barrel making, business.  It was highly successful.

In 1847 finding himself in need of lumber, Allan went to an island in the river hoping to get wood.  He noticed the remains of a recent fire.  By going back night after night, he discovered men making small items in the fire.  Alerting the authorities, they broke up a coin counterfeiting ring.  He did the same thing with another group of counterfeiters in another town.  The Chicago Police Department made Allan Pinkerton their first full-time detective.

Within a year, Pinkerton left to start his own agency.  Increasing the business's abilities meant hiring more agents.  They were all taught using the Pinkerton Method and Manual.  In short order their motto "We Never Sleep" earned them the honor of the best agency in the nation.  This success lead to Pinkerton being hired to protect the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad from harm by those wishing to secede from the union.  In this capacity Pinkerton uncovered rumors of a plot to assassinate newly elected President Lincoln.

Sending in his best people, including the first woman detective, Kate Warne, Pinkerton garnered specific goosebumps-inducing details of the scheme and warned President Lincoln. The clever plan Pinkerton devised to thwart this evil was the stuff of page-turning, thrilling intrigue.  Duly impressed with the work of Allan Pinkerton, President Lincoln created a special team to locate spies for the South and to infiltrate the South as spies.  

Immediately we are enthralled with this man's life by the way author Marissa Moss incorporates facts in this fascinating narrative.  We find ourselves cheering for a person with Pinkerton's powerful characteristics and his actions that support these beliefs.  Marissa Moss's precise and thorough research is apparent in the inclusion of specific details and quotes.  Even though you know the outcome of events, you find yourself hardly daring to breathe.  Here is a passage.

Not trusting the mail or telegraph wires, Pinkerton sent an agent, Kate Warne, to set up an appointment so he could meet with Lincoln, then followed her to Philadelphia, the next city on the president's route.  That night, he pushed his way through the excited crowds in the lobby and halls of the Continental Hotel.  People were even gathered right outside Lincoln's door! This city was friendly to the president-elect.  Here the hordes of people weren't a threat.  What would it be like, though, with angry mobs in Baltimore, a city with strong southern sympathies?

The complementary color palette and illustrative style on the opened and matching dust jacket and book case, capture our attention immediately.  The scratchboard technique devised by illustrator Jeremy Holmes here (and throughout the book) is indicative of a historical piece.  The meticulous details in clothing and architecture take us back in time.  

To the left, on the back, a poster with uneven and wrinkled edges is placed on a wooden wall.  It contains the opening statement with several other lines asking readers to discover how this man became

America's greatest detective.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a patterned diamond design in two shades of purple with what appears to be ink blots.  On the title page the eye, the logo for the agency, is centered with text above and below it.  Scroll work frames the words.

With each page turn Jeremy Holmes creates a series of wordless, successive panels in a variety of sizes or large double page pictures with elements encroaching on the text panel.  This visual storytelling has you examining every single image.  Repeatedly the eye(s) of Pinkerton create a beam of light based on his current work.  

The point of view portrayed in the pictures shifts to coincide with the narrative; bringing us close to Pinkerton or giving us a broader perspective in a particular location.  When speaking of the plot to assassinate the president elect three illustration match the text; a close-up of a hand clutching a red piece of paper, President Lincoln and Mrs. Lincoln driving through groups of people in a horse drawn and open carriage and a large picture of the president's stovepipe hat riddled with bullet holes and script reading

The Deed Is Done.

The use of cross-sections, maps, newspaper headlines, typography, and a Morse telegraph alphabet is excellent.  Speech bubbles add to the authenticity and personal aspects.  A final vertical double-page picture highlights a moment of triumph.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is when Jeremy Holmes zooms in on Pinkerton's face.  His nose centers in the gutter with his face extending on either side.  Pouring from both of his ears are bits and pieces of conversations centering on the plot.  Along the bottom of the page and in front of Pinkerton's beard is an engine, coal car and passenger car of the B & O Railroad.  In the lower left-hand and right-hand corners are squares of text framed in tiny lines.

We become willing and avid time travelers when reading The Eye That Never Sleeps: How Detective Pinkerton Saved President Lincoln written by Marissa Moss with illustrations by Jeremy Holmes.  The word cliff-hanger repeatedly comes to mind with this winning blend of words and illustrations.  A time line, artist's note, author's note, endnotes, bibliography and index add to the excellence of this work.  I highly recommend this for your personal and professional collections.  (Fans of this book will enjoy reading The Detective's Assistant by Kate Hannigan.)

To learn more about Marissa Moss and Jeremy Holmes and their other work, visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Marissa Moss maintains an account on Twitter.  Both Marissa and Jeremy have Instagram accounts.  Marissa is interviewed by Deborah Kalb about this title.  Jeremy visits Let's Talk Picture Books to chat about this book.  You are going to love all the artwork featured.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to discover the other titles listed this week by participants in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like . . #2

After hundreds of stories the magic of the lamp remains.  As the flame is blown out, three wishes are cast into the air, one for anyone in the world, known or unknown, one for someone you love, including a pet and one for yourself.  You are indeed a very important person.  Over the years, countless children have asked if the wishes come true.  An affirmative reply followed by another story fashions an understanding of wishes made with the storytelling lamp.

Even today another opportunity presented itself to add further veracity to the power of wishing and wishes coming true.  The original wish in question involved people without homes.  The Christmas Eve Tree (Candlewick Press, September 18, 2018) written by Delia Huddy with illustrations by Emily Sutton brings two lost beings together. 

forest of
Christmas trees
stretching over the hills.
That's where the story begins.  

A fir tree, not planted correctly, grows crookedly into another neighboring tree.  It's unable to increase its size.  One year in December the trees around the small fir are harvested as Christmas trees.  Still woven into the branches of the other tree, the small evergreen makes an unplanned trip to the city.  

One by one all the trees disappear into large venues and homes until only one tree is left; the tree with the tiny fir wrapped in its branches.  An eager shopper wants the last tree and the clerk removes the unwanted fir.  About to toss it with the other rubbish, a small child still in the store makes a request.  The tiny fir is now his tree. 

Rescuing a cardboard box from the trash, the boy scoops up mud along a shore and plants the fir inside the paper container.  Locating another larger cardboard box under a railroad bridge, the boy settles in for the night in his makeshift home.  The tiny fir nearby believes its luck is shifting.

I belong to someone now, it thought to itself.

Fortunately, someone walking by the boy tosses a coin to him.  Rather than use it for food, he buys candles and a box of matches.  Soon the candles fastened on the tree cast a glow to others arriving to spend the night in their cardboard boxes.  One of them begins to play his accordion.  A Christmas tune serenades people on their way home or to events or simply enjoying the sights.  A policeman is unable to control the happy crowd which brings traffic to a standstill.

Now you might think after this night filled with the wonder of the Christmas season, things would be different for those living under the railroad bridge.  The child leaves the area and the tiny fir tree.  Oh, dear readers, this is not the end.  Real Christmas magic lasts for more than a season, it goes on and on and on.

Thirteen years ago, author Delia Huddy worked on the text for this story at the end of her life.  She ties every seemingly unconnected incident together beautifully.  It is a descriptive flow of what-if-this had not happened.  Inserting the thoughts of the fir tree into the narrative adds an intimate touch.  Here is a passage.

The candles burned steadily
and the old man played, and still the people sang.
The little fir tree felt it would burst with happiness,
because clearly the boy had forgotten
that tonight he would be sleeping in a cardboard box
under the railway arch, and that tomorrow
he would eat not turkey but soup in a soup kitchen,
if he was lucky.

The smaller trim size (5 5/16" x 6 1/8") of this edition is perfect to hold in younger readers' hands, tuck under a pillow or to bring children close for a cozy read aloud.  The scene on the front (right) of the opened book case extends to the left on the back.  The buildings' windows are glowing with light and many of them have special Christmas light outlines on their walls.  Looking at the boy we know he's on a mission and he seems to have a homeless furry friend keeping him company.  The title text is in silver foil.

The opening and closing endpapers in shades of pale blue and white feature the cityscape above the railroad's arched bridge.  Beneath the text on the initial title page is the fir tree alone except for a bird.  A rabbit joins the bird, now on a branch, on the formal title page.

Emily Sutton's delicate watercolor illustrations on double pages, full pages or gathered together on a single page display a world window brimming with intricate details.  The name on the store where the boy gets the tree is D. Huddy & Son Department Store.  The store window is a vision in Christmas toys and decorations.  The scenes along the railroad arches are realistic and poignant.  We feel as though we can step into the story and hear the singing.

A stunning fold-out, double page picture surely will have readers gasping.  Several layers move from the path along the arches, to the bridge above and the buildings beyond both.  A star-studded night sky provides the background.

One of my many favorite pictures is on a single page.  We are close to one of the bridge arches.  The boy is standing outside his cardboard box.  The fir tree in its box is being adorned in small red candles.  Two of the homeless residents are watching; the elder is seated on an upturned box playing his accordion.  The small black dog watches.  Three passersby have stopped to listen or sing.

This new edition of The Christmas Eve Tree written by Delia Huddy with illustrations by Emily Sutton is a gem.  Without a doubt this story will prompt discussions about homeless persons, the interconnectedness of moments in all our lives and the spirit of Christmas.  Whether you have this title in your professional and personal collections already or not, you will want this edition.  It's utterly lovely.

To learn more about Emily Sutton and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At the publisher's website you can view the interior image matching the above-quoted text.  Emily maintains an account on Instagram.  At The Guardian Emily shows readers how to draw a Christmas Eve tree.

Monday, November 26, 2018

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like . .

There's no denying the magic of the Christmas season is in the air.  If you stop and step aside from all the hustle and bustle and look around you, you will see it.  It's there in the person holding the door for someone whose arms are full of packages.  You can hear it in the carol being whistled softly by a shopper.  The aroma of fresh cut evergreens fills local nurseries.  Sipping a cup of peppermint hot chocolate brings forth memories of past holiday gatherings.  As some ornaments, decades old, are hung on the tree, you can close your eyes and recall the exact moment you first saw them, simply by touch.

There are stories attached to Christmas tree ornaments; a gift from a student, a symbol of a beloved book, or in memory of a cherished companion. The Broken Ornament (Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, September 18, 2018) written and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi is about the search for a special Christmas.  You never know where you will find it or who will help you.

"I want more decorations," he said. "That way Santa will see our house first."

Jack is a firm believer in more and bigger equals better than best.  Despite everything in his household ready to celebrate Christmas Eve, Jack still feels there is one more thing to do.  He leaves the decorated tree and races back into the room holding a box with a single ornament inside.  His mother calls out.  Jack's determination causes a lapse in hearing.

The ornament drops to the floor shattering.  Heartbroken his mother runs upstairs crying.  His father follows with a box of tissues. Peering into the pieces Jack sees a shadow emerge. It's a fairy named Tinsel.  Asked what he desires, Jack says

"I want the best Christmas ever!"

Tinsel springs into action.  Tossed glitter becomes snowflakes.  Mistletoe berries falling to the floor sprout into huge evergreens.  Jack's living room is now a winter wonderland. Whenever the sprite's bells jingle more Christmas cheer enters Jack's house.  It's still not enough.  Jack has one more wish.

Tinsel cannot grant this request.  She cannot repair the broken ornament.

Given a gingerbread house glowing with an inner light, Jack gazes through a miniature window.  The scene he sees fills his mind and heart with understanding.  There is only one person who can make this the best Christmas ever.  It needs to be made with and for love.

As Jack and his parents are introduced to us, it's easy to catch his excitement for making this Christmas one to remember.    With each one of his expressed desires Tony DiTerlizzi is indeed leading readers toward the disaster but also toward a far larger discovery.  Each sentence and each verbal exchange between the characters is a careful blend providing excellent pacing.  Readers will smile at the terms of endearment Tinsel uses when addressing Jack.  Here is a passage.

"Are you my fairy godmother?" Jack asked.
A bubbly voice replied, "Godmother?  Oh, no, they don't trust me with a wand.
Call me Tinsel."
"So . . . do you grant wishes?" Jack leaned in close.

Framed in red foil the front (right) and back (left) of the opened dust jacket gives readers a glimpse of Jack's Christmas extravaganza inside his home.  Tinsel zips from the broken ornament as Jack watches in wonder.  The title text is raised and varnished.  Tinsel's frozen trail is also varnished.  On the back we move closer to the Christmas tree heavily covered in snow.  Two lines from the story are varnished in white.

The book case is a shimmer of white on the front and the back with a dusting of pale blue on the edges.  Five specific ornaments hang on the back.  On the front the broken ornament lays beneath the title text.  Tinsel is flying off the image in the upper, right-hand corner.

The opening and closing endpapers look like green wrapping paper patterned in an array of various ornaments colored in red, yellow, blue, white and green.  On the title page five houses covered in snow and ice line the street and create a peaceful scene under the text.

Rendered in

colored pencil and Acryla gouache on Bristol board with additional effects (were) achieved through fairy magic,

the illustrations supply warmth and a bit of nostalgia.  Tony DiTerlizzi alters their size to coincide with his masterful pacing.  Some are full page, small insets with text or marvelous, wordless double-page pictures.  Several of the visuals extend over the gutter providing a column for text.  For a very specific depiction the entire background is white.

The point of view provides emphasis on moments in the story, bringing us near to the characters or giving us a breathtaking view of the action.  Humor is found in many of the images; the looks on the snowmen's faces and a reindeer enjoying a candy cane.  The tag on Jack's pajama top is outside.  And the extra snowman in one of the pictures looks familiar.  The final illustration on the dedication page will have readers cheering.

One of my many favorite pictures is when we meet Tinsel.  A full page is dedicated to her.  We move in close to within the branches of the Christmas tree.  Colorful ornaments and lights surround her.  She stands on a red ornament.  Her larger, pointed ears stick out from her red hair.  A crown with snowflakes adorns her head.  Around the bottom of her dress is a layer of white.  Her tights are candy-cane stripped.  Bells are attached to her ankles.  She is beauty and joy all rolled into a single being.

The Broken Ornament with words and pictures by Tony DiTerlizzi is certain to be a Christmas classic.  Readers will ask for it to be read repeatedly.  It's guaranteed everyone who reads this story will be looking for a Christmas fairy every time an ornament is broken.  I know you will want a copy of this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Tony DiTerlizzi please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  Tony maintains an account on Twitter and Instagram. You'll enjoy seeing a lot of his process artwork.  The cover of this book is revealed at Watch. Connect. Read., the site of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher.  You can view interior images at the publisher's website.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thanksgiving Treasures-Tradition #8

It's another chilly and blustery holiday in northern Michigan.  The skies are covered in shades of gray and white.  Snow blankets lawns, fields, floors of forests and roadways. The word thanksgiving is defined as 

the act of giving thanks and 
prayer expressing gratitude. (Merriam-Webster)

For each of the past seven years two titles reflective of thanksgiving have been featured here.  They can be found at Thanksgiving Treasures-Traditions, Thanksgiving Treasures-Tradition #2, Thanksgiving Treasures-Tradition #3, Thanksgiving Treasures-Tradition #4, Thanksgiving Treasures-Tradition #5, Thanksgiving Treasures-Tradition #6 and Thanksgiving Treasures-Tradition #7.  They include books about the holiday, gratitude, family and food.  

This year in September and in October books were published recognizing a nation that is thankful throughout the year and asking us to look at each day as an opportunity to experience and focus on generosity.  We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga (Charlesbridge, September 4, 2018) written by debut picture book author Traci Sorell with illustrations by Frane Lessac presents readers with an intimate portrait of life for a Cherokee Nation family.  During the four seasons we walk beside them as they honor all aspects of their daily experiences.

Cherokee people say losaliheliga to express gratitude.  

In the autumn the Great New Moon Ceremony greets the Cherokee New Year.  It is a time for enjoying the shell shakers' dance as the air fills with the fragrance of burnt cedar.  Buckbrush and honeysuckle are collected for basket weaving in commemoration of those who suffered on the Trail of Tears.

Around the table during family dinners in winter elders spin their stories.  Children pass on skills to those younger than them; the making of corn-husk dolls and playing cane flutes.  Graves of those now gone are visited.  A father comforts a baby with a soothing melody 

in Tsalagi, Cherokee.

When spring gives birth to new life, songs ask for blessings and first growth is gathered for food.  Children learn to fashion pucker-toe moccasins and form clay to make pots.  When strawberries are planted it awakens the memory of a story about anger and forgiveness.

The heat of the summer sun encourages the growth of crops.  During the Green Corn Ceremony, the first produce is enjoyed at a feast.  Youth gather and play around a pole using sticks and a small ball. As this fourth season closes, the Cherokee National Holiday is observed; remembering the history of a people.  In all these days of the year gratitude is embraced. 

The heart of the Cherokee Nation beats in the words written by Traci Sorell.  She begins each season with a vivid descriptor followed by the words

we say they are welcome.

This is followed with lyrical phrases depicting scenes for each season.  Explanations and pronunciations of the Cherokee words appear beneath the narrative to assist readers.  She opens a door into beauty.  Here is a passage.

When showers fill streams and shoots spring up,
we say they are welcome. . .

. . . while men sing, asking for thunder and lightning's
protection of the emerging sprouts that women tend. 

Rendered in gouache on Arches paper all the images beginning with the opened and matching dust jacket and book case are vividly alive with color.  People gather in celebration in autumn with the landscape extending flap edge to flap edge.  To the left of the spine we are introduced to the family seen in every season.  The title text is raised enhancing the tactile impression. 

On the opening and closing endpapers we find a deep royal purple canvas.  Beneath the text on the title page the family is harvesting corn and pumpkins.  On the first page which acquaints us with the Cherokee people's use of otsaliheliga, the family walks by a tree.  The tree branches display all four seasons.

Illustrator Frane Lessac places the family's dog and a pileated woodpecker in many of the images which usually span two pages.  Careful readers will notice the children feeding beloved pets at the dinner table.  Each page turn asks us to pause and study individual elements.  The final picture is a marvelous blend of all seasons with the original tree as a focal point.   

One of my favorite pictures is on a single page framed by a fine blue line and white space.  Spring has arrived.  One group is located on the upper right side preparing a meal.  Four men are to the left of them singing.  Toward the bottom of the page a mother and daughter dig for wild onions.  The dog is digging to the left of them.  Green grass, new leaves on trees and blossoms on other trees signify the season.  Can you hear the woodpecker tapping nearby?

No matter how many times you read We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga written by Traci Sorell with illustrations by Frane Lessac, you will complete it with a sense of peace and a song in your heart.  It is a work of art in words and pictures highlighting the spirit of the Cherokee Nation.  At the close of the book are pertinent definitions, an author's note, a paragraph about The Cherokee Syllabary and the Cherokee Syllabary with explanations about vowel and consonant sounds.  I can't imagine a professional or personal collection without a copy of this title. 

To learn more about Traci Sorell and Frane Lessac, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  At the publisher's website you can watch the book trailer and download a teacher's guide, coloring sheets and a poster.   At another publisher's website  you can read an excerpt and view interior images.  Traci Sorell visits Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read.  Traci and Frane speak with teacher librarian Matthew Winner at All The Wonders for the book cover reveal.  They both talk at The Horn Book to answer five questions.  Traci is interviewed at M IS FOR MOVEMENT, KidLit 411, PictureBookBuilders and at author Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations.  I believe you will appreciate this review of this title by three Native youth at Indigo's Bookshelf.  Traci Sorell maintains an account on Twitter as does Frane Lessac.  Traci and Frane are also on Instagram.

If you were to walk through a specific neighborhood, in a specific city you might meet a very special woman.  Thank You, Omu! (Little, Brown And Company, October 2, 2018) written and illustrated by debut author illustrator Oge Mora is the story of this woman. Like the aroma of the stew she is cooking her generosity wafts among her neighbors.

ON THE CORNER of First Street
and Long Street, on the very top floor, Omu
was cooking a thick red stew in a big fat pot for
a nice evening meal.

As soon as she tasted it, she knew it was delicious; perfect for dinner. Omu then settled down to read a bit before suppertime.  Through the open window the smell of the bubbling stew traveled out and about the streets. 


At her door was a little boy.  He smelled something so wonderful, he needed to know what it was.  When Omu said it was her

thick red stew

he had to have a taste.  Knowing she made plenty, Omu gave a bowl to the boy.  He left carrying this delectable delight.

Soon there was another knock at her door.  It was a policewoman.  She smelled the stew, too.  Thinking about how much was in her pot, Omu gave away another bowl.  A happy woman left.

Another person came followed by someone else.  Omu barely was seated when there was a knocking at her door.  People from all walks of life came to Omu's place drawn by the enticing odor.  As darkness fell, Omu was ready to eat but she discovered her pot was empty.  Knowing she would not have a much-desired delicious dinner saddened Omu.


Someone was knocking and knocking on her door.  Who could it be?  When Omu opens her door, she realizes a compassionate heart feeds souls.  

As you read this book it implores you to read it aloud.  It asks you to share this story.  Oge Mora uses the repetition of words and phrases supplying readers with a storytelling rhythm.  It is a welcome invitation for audience participation.  A combination of narrative and conversation makes us feel as if we are one of the lucky neighbors in her community.  Here is a passage. 

"LITTLE BOY!" Omu exclaimed.  "What 
brings you to my home?"
"I was playing with my race car down the hall
when I smelled the most delicious smell," the 
little boy replied.  "What is it?"

"Thick red stew."

"MMMMM, STEW!" He sighed.  "That
sure sounds yummy."

One of the first things you discover on the opened dust jacket is the texture of the paper.  The matte finish exudes warmth.  The background extends from flap edge to flap edge.  The curl of the stew's aroma weaves from the bowl through the title text.  You know looking at the boy's face the smell is like a gift from heaven.

To the left, on the back, the scent of the stew moves from the pot being stirred by Omu.  It weaves to the left off the upper, left-hand corner of the flap to join the other flap on the right.  The book case in shades of blue-green highlights, on the right, a gift Omu receives from the boy.  

On the opening and closing endpapers Oge Mora has designed two different bird's-eye-view neighborhood scenes.  They are a marvelous blend of

acrylic paint, china markers, pastels, patterned paper, and old-book clippings

as are all the illustrations.  The double-page picture for the title page moves us close to the buildings on one of those streets.  Omu is walking to her home carrying a grocery bag.  Her pot is seen through one of the windows.  The story begins.

Each page turn reveals a picture which wraps around readers in cozy comfort.  The visuals all extend across two pages, varying in perspective.  These shifts in point-of-view place emphasis on appropriate portions of the text heightening the cadence and charm of this story.  Readers will notice Oge Mora includes the smell drifting on nearly every page.

One of my favorite illustrations is in Omu's kitchen.  Her table is covered in a patterned, green and white check cloth.  Her bowl, cup and spoon are on the left of the table.  Omu has brought the pot to the table.  She is ladling some stew.  The little boy is holding his bowl, waiting.  Another cup and spoon rest on the right.  There is love in this scene, much love.

As you read Thank You, Omu! written and illustrated by Oge Mora the heartwarming words and illustrations fill you from the top of your head to the tip of your toes and straight into your heart.  The generosity of Omu is contagious.  At the close of this story is an author's note.  I highly recommend this for your professional and personal bookshelves.

If you desire to learn more about Oge Mora and her work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At the publisher's website you can view a video book chat with Oge and read an essay she wrote.  Roger Sutton of The Horn Book chats with Oge Mora on a special video.  Oge is interviewed at Let's Talk Picture Books.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson shows us some art from the book at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Oge Mora talks with teacher librarian Matthew Winner at The Children's Book Podcast.  Oge Mora maintains accounts on Twitter and Instagram.