Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Stay The Course

We count down the days, weeks, and months.  Our anticipation continues to grow.  Others have worked far longer to ensure a promise filled with possibilities becomes something we can hold in our hands.

When the expected date arrives, we can hardly contain our excitement.  We read it first, consuming it with care, savoring the words and pausing at the illustrations.  We read it a second time to experience the joy it brings, again.  This is how readers feel when characters we enjoy, those who have captured our hearts, return in a companion book.  The positive, can-do attitude of Penguin in Flight School (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, April 15, 2014) is an inspiration to all.  Today he's back in Penguin Flies Home: a Flight School story (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, January 15, 2018) written and illustrated by his talented creator Lita Judge.

Penguin loved to fly.

It was true he needed a little help with
the technical parts---but that's why he
worked hard as a student at flight school.

Penguin had the most important characteristic needed to fly; he had heart.  There was nothing Penguin did not like about flying except at the end of the day.  It was then he thought about his home and the penguins there.  He wanted his friends to feel the same exhilaration he felt when flying.

His teacher and Flamingo knew Penguin needed to go home.  This next morning a normal take off turned into a field trip . . . a long, long field trip.  Penguin was happy to be home with his penguin friends.  He presented Teacher, Flamingo and Egret with pride.  Next on his agenda was to teach all those penguins to fly.  Fly?

It's safe to say his exuberance was not reciprocated.  He tried his best to demonstrate the basics, flapping, jumping, going up and landing, but one by one his penguin pals dove into the water for a swim.  His usually energetic manner was crushed.  Alone, he wandered to a snowy peak watching darkness descend and the aurora begin.

Penguin thought and thought and knew he had to hold fast to his dreams.  In the morning he wanted to tell his friends he was going back to Flight School with Teacher, Flamingo and Egret.  Penguin had no idea of the surprise awaiting him.  It was a victory for love.

Within the first two pages, even without reading the first Penguin book, readers will know of this bird's passion for flying.  Through the writing of Lita Judge he continues to acquaint us with all the explicit sensations he has when high above the landscape beneath him.  Our appreciation for his mentors grows with their acute observations.

With intention and care Lita Judge inserts little bits of humor in the side comments of Penguin's pals at home.  In his desire to pass on his love of flying to them, he does not hear what they are saying which makes his heartbreak more profound.  It also contributes to the elation Penguin (and readers) have at the end.  Here is a passage.

I don't think so!

I think we heard wrong.

Penguins don't fly.

"Follow me birdies!"
Penguin said.
"It's time for class to begin."

On the front of the dust jacket you simply can't resist smiling when seeing the happy grin on Penguin's face as he glides away from his gathered penguin pals.  His colorful red goggles, spread wings and fluttering feather embellishments are sure to lift readers' spirits and send them soaring, too.  If you are questioning the lines around his body disappearing off the top of the page, an answer will be revealed.  Certain elements in this image are varnished and raised.

To the left, on the back, within a circular picture, we see Teacher, Flamingo, Penguin and Egret flying over the water to Penguin's home.  This illustration is framed by a white canvas.  On the opening endpapers with a pale blue background we are presented with the Flight School Yearbook.  It is a collection of ten framed drawings of notable characters and two of Penguin's memorable moments.  It is first here we note Penguin has become the Flight School Mascot.  Labels and captions provide further explanations.  In contrast on the closing endpapers with a rich black canvas, we have Penguin's Scrapbook. This collection of ten images captures fun-filled activities during the visit home.  As in the first endpapers, comments in the scrapbook increase readers' connection to the characters.

A light wash of blue and yellow begin the pictorial story on the verso and title pages.  A pelican wearing a mailbag (starting on the far left) flies over Penguin (on the right) perched on a wooden piling.  The pelican drops him a postcard from the South Pole wishing Penguin well at Flight School. 

The illustrations rendered in watercolor by Lita Judge are double-page pictures, full page visuals, loosely framed circles on single pages or a series of small images on two pages.  Their size is dictated by the narrative.  The shift in perspectives will have readers gasping in admiration.  Readers will delight in the details in the characters' facial expressions and body postures.  Whether we are at Flight School, the South Pole, on land, in the air or beneath the water, these illustrations are alive with emotion.  They glow with a special essence straight from this artist's soul.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Across most of the background is a night sky at the South Pole.  It pulses with the aurora Australis; a few stars shining against the darker sky.  Along the bottom a still ocean rests.  To the far right are two icebergs.  Taking up most of the bottom half on the left is a curved high jut of ice.  Penguin prints move to the top.  There stands Penguin with his back to us; feathers and line streaming behind him.  His red goggles make for a striking comparison.

Penguin Flies Home: a Flight School story written and illustrated by Lita Judge is a book you will be asked to read again as soon as it is finished.  Readers welcome the warmth radiating from the characters.  In Penguin with his round body, soul of an eagle and cheerful mind-set, there is a hero they can embrace.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional bookshelves.

To discover more about Lita Judge and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  They are also found at Lita Judge's website, but she includes numerous concept sketches, too.  The book trailer with an interview is premiered at Watch. Connect. Read., the blog of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher.  Lita Judge maintains accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

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