Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Beneath The Waves Pastry Prevails

Six months ago, a movement came to international attention.  In August 2018, Greta Thunberg, a sixteen-year-old Swedish student turned political activist, began to strike to bring attention to climate change.  Throughout the world student-driven events in the form of strikes are growing.  A website, FridaysForFuture, is a central location for information.  On March 15, 2019 a global day of action is set in place.  For those who educate and encourage children, telling them they can save the world, hope grows.

What these children and young adults do not know is they might have unexpected allies. . . under the ocean waves.  Crab Cake: Turning The Tide Together (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February 5, 2019) written and illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi presents a marvelous tale of typical and not-so-typical inhabitants of the ocean realm.  A single defining moment causes the formation of a new normal.

Under the sea,
where sunlight
touches sand,
lies a place
that's home to 
many incredible

Clownfish, Manta Ray, Tangs, Sea Turtle and Scallop go about their days doing what is normal for a clownfish, a manta ray, tangs, a sea turtle and a scallop.  Crab does not go about his day doing what is normal for a crab.

Crab bakes cakes.

No matter how any of the other residents of this watery world spend their days, Crab continues to bake cakes, leaving them like a sweet delicious path among his companions.  Even those individuals who can't stop eating whatever or whoever they find, Crab just keeps baking cakes.  Life is beautiful in its sameness until suddenly it's not.

In the deepest dark of night danger is dumped into the watery world.  The dwellers are dumbfounded.  They become like statues unable to function but . . . not Crab.  Crab creates yet another confection for consumption.  This time is different.  This time everyone single soul comes to enjoy what Crab baked.

When a questions is asked of the group, an answer is given.  Many work as one until the job is done. In the morning, a shock awaits another community above the sea.  Down below, what do you think Crab and his ocean crew are doing?

A rhythm as gentle as a slow-moving current is supplied with the narrative flow written by Andrea TsurumiWhen each group of ocean occupants is introduced, she has them engaged in an activity.  This is followed by

Crab bakes cakes. 

This happens three times inviting reader participation.  It leads us into and provides a sharp contrast to the dreadful incident.  It also supplies an opportunity for the sea creatures to work as a single unit for their common good.  Here is a passage.

Toadfish sings.
Pufferfish puffs up. 
Octopus hides in a coconut.
Moray Eel pops out of her cave.

And Crab . . .

You know with one look at the open and matching dust jacket and book case, this book is full of goodness and surprises.  It's not often crabs are carrying cakes adorned with snail shells and seaweed.  Do you see that tentacle reaching out to grab the cupcake?  Is that fish snacking on a chocolate chip cookie?

To the left, on the back, a fish is wearing a croissant for a hat as a shark munches on a doughnut.  In the sea above this activity there is a subtle hint of the danger to come.  Will readers wonder?  Most of the elements, other than the seascape, are varnished.

On the opening and closing endpapers in sea green, outlines of white jellyfish are swimming upward.  Within each body is a sweet treat.  Pieces of cakes and pies, and cookies, float in delectable delight.  On the verso page we see a hint of the danger again.  Opposite this on the title page, Crab is baking using an undersea volcano.

The illustrations rendered

using graphite on Bristol vellum and digital color

by Andrea Tsurumi are double-page pictures until the mood of the story shifts.  Then a series of panels on six separate pages place greater emphasis on the change.  This pacing is excellent.  Andrea Tsurumi varies her color palette to indicate emotional highs and lows.

Intricate details welcome readers to pause on the pages drawing them further into the story.  The expressions on the creatures' faces mirror the story superbly.  Readers will see bits of humor inserted in some of the images.

One of my many favorite illustrations spreads across two pages.  On both sides of the gutter Crab is carrying a huge three-layer cake embellished with items from the sea.  On either side are all kinds of flora found along the ocean bottom.  A clam is taking a bite of a cookie.  A fish is enjoying another pastry.  A wooden spoon drifts nearby.  Are those muffins among the seaweed?  A larger fish looks in amazement at the cake.

What readers will realize is Crab Cake: Turning The Tide Together written and illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi is a tale about taking charge.  It's about working to take back the goodness you enjoy.  It shows the power of one to effect change.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Andrea Tsurumi and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  You'll enjoy the cover reveal by Elizabeth Bird, Collection Development Manager at Evanston Public Library system, at A Fuse #8 Production.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson highlights the artistic process by Andrea Tsurumi on her site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  It's fabulous!  Andrea Tsurumi stops by Mile High Reading hosted by Dylan Teut, director for the Plum Creek Children's Literacy Festival in Seward, Nebraska to talk about this book, her process and other work. Andrea Tsurumi has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

UPDATE:  Please enjoy The Children's Book Podcast with Andrea Tsurumi and teacher librarian Matthew C. Winner, April 30, 2019 about this book.

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