Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Imagination On The Run

Some go through their entire childhood without one.  Parents and parental figures have any number of excuses or as they say, truth-filled reasonable replies.  It stands to reason in this timeless conflict, over thousands of years, there is a trail of squashed dreams held by younger gals and guys.  They have all wanted a pet; for many of them, specifically a puppy.

Rather than succumb to disappointment, there are special sorts of souls who have ignited their imaginations.  Puppy Truck (Atheneum Books For Young Readers, June 25, 2019) written and illustrated by Brian Pinkney follows a young boy whose mind bridges the gap between hoping and having.  It's exuberant optimism.

Carter wanted a puppy.

Carter did not get a puppy.  Carter received a truck.  He decided to make the best of the situation, put a leash on this truck and gave it some loving pats.  As they started to move it sounded like a combination of a truck and a puppy.

Vroom beep bark!

An impish gray squirrel darted next to the truck on their way to the park.  The truck roared to the challenge.  Carter yelled.  The truck raced right out of the leash.  It was gone!

Fortunately, a girl at the park stood on a bench and sighted the puppy truck.  There is nothing sweeter than a child reunited with their new best friend.  For the rest of the day, that truck carried that boy and together they pursued that troublesome squirrel, delighting in the chase.

Covered in dirt, they both splashed in the sudsy bathtub at home.  Inseparable they snacked and then snoozed. At the sand box the next day in the park, Carter and his puppy truck encountered a friendly surprise.

Using concise, precise words designed for the youngest readers Brian Pinkney presents a problem in the first two sentences and with the glass-is-half-full outlook prevalent in children, Carter has a solution in the third sentence.  This is instantly appealing.  When you add the sound effects, it's an open invitation to join the story.

It's interesting when Carter decides to abandon using the leash how the shared enjoyment increases.  Readers will appreciate the "truckish" language used in the narrative.  Here is a passage.

They were so hungry,
they ate some nuts and bolts.

chomp munch

The choice to work with primary colors against the pale yellow canvas on the open and matching dust jacket and book case (and throughout the book) draws readers' attention quickly to Carter and his puppy truck.  Brian Pinkney's signature movements are present; the joyful upward flow of elements.  Carter's smile tells a story itself. 

To the left, on the back, beneath the words

Vroom beep bark!

Carter is kneeling on the back of Puppy Truck as they speed down a hill.  You couldn't ask for two happier pals.  On the opening and closing endpapers Brian Pinkney extends his story.  On the first, over the grassy landscape dotted with clumps of green, the gray squirrel scampers toward the right edge.  For a split second, on the closing endpapers the gray squirrel is sitting upright, resting before it's off to tantalize some new unsuspecting being.

Rendered in acrylic and India ink on Canson paper the illustrations are bold and bright filling much of the page with the child and his pet.  Carter is brimming with energy; ready to greet the day and so is his puppy truck.  Many of the pictures span two pages to show this exhilaration these two feel in each other's company as they embrace every moment totally.  There is not a picture in this entire book that is not emotionally charged.  Every line and brush stroke are fluid and free.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a two-page picture.  On the pale yellow background, a big sandbox covers a large area along the bottom.  Sitting on the left is Carter.  His legs are moving, and his hands are raised.  He is laughing. (You'll almost be able to hear it.)  Near him and moving across the gutter is Puppy Truck.  It's gleefully saying


Briefly seated on the far right is the gray squirrel looking astonished at not being followed. 

The pure bliss in Puppy Truck written and illustrated by Brian Pinkney is certain to lift your spirits and surround you in happiness.  The fact this child is able to use his imagination to make his dream a realization is the best kind of story.  You could pair this book with A Pet for Petunia, The Pet Project or The Grumpy Pets, and Some Pets for a storytime extravaganza on pets.  This is a charming title to add to your professional and personal collections for your younger gals and guys.

To learn more about Brian Pinkney and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  At the publisher's website you can view several interior images.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Sensing A Season

Today marks the passage of one full week of summer.  Even while celebrating the longest day of the year, the additional sunlight, warmth, abundance of wildlife and vacation adventures, our days are starting to get shorter.  We've lost nearly a full minute of daylight in these seven days. 

With the time lessening each day, there is only one thing to do.  We need to make the most of this season.  Super Summer: All Kinds Of Summer Facts And Fun (Henry Holt And Company, May 7, 2019) written by Bruce Goldstone with some of his photographic images, too, is a guide to enjoying every marvelous moment. 


In summer there's plenty
of sun and plenty of fun.

Fields are filled with plenty of 
flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

Animals have no trouble finding
plenty of food.

Although we rarely think about it, summer means we are crossing off days on the calendar toward the autumnal equinox.  On this day, twelve hours of twenty-four are given to day and to night. Until then more heat from the sun means we need to protect our eyes and skin and stay cool.  Drinking plenty of water is one solution.  Animals can help to cool themselves by panting, shedding unnecessary fur, hiding in cooler areas in their habitats or even by practicing estivation.  This state of dormancy offers protection during extended heat and lack of rain.

In thinking about summer, how does it feel to you?  How does it touch you?  How do you touch it?  Gardeners tend to brilliant-colored annuals and perennials.  These flowers are sheer pleasure for pollinators who drink the nectar and help reproduction.  Sunflowers, before they're fully developed follow the sun from east to west. 

We enjoy a bounty of fruits and vegetables.  What is your favorite summer food?  Is it cool, sweet, spicy, sticky or juicy?  

Insects flourish in the summer.  It's a good idea to be aware of those that bite and sting.  Other critters are bright, nearly always in motion and have spectacular abilities; the chirping of crickets, the blinking of fireflies and the magical water striders.

As the narrative continues, we are challenged to point out different geometric shapes, listen for sounds more often heard in summer and to think where we would go on a dream vacation.  We are encouraged to participate in activities in the water, on land and in the air.  As the days pass into months, holidays are highlighted until we start thinking about school days and the falling leaves of fall.

When we read this chronicling of the summer season written by Bruce Goldstone his enthusiasm for opportunities is conveyed to readers.  It begins with his use of the word plenty.  There is more of everything in the summer. 

Within each two pages he starts with a single thought.  He supports this by following with several facts which might be a single sentence or a paragraph.  He moves easily from heat to cooling to our sensory perceptions, and then focusing on flora and fauna.  He asks us to be constant observers and doers.  Here is a passage.


Some plants follow the sun during the day.  This process
is called heliotropism.

Young sunflowers move their blossoms to face the sun as it
moves from east to west each day.  When a sunflower is 
growing, each side of its stem grows at different times.  . . .  

The lush yellows on the matching dust jacket and book case are sure to have readers wondering what treasures are to be found inside.  It is now when butterflies are seen at work among the flowers.  (This is currently prevalent in gardens and fields in northern Michigan.)  The other primary color of the title text like water in a pool or lake adds to the lure of summer.

To the left, on the back, summer scenes are placed like a frame around a beach scene.  The words


is tucked in the sky.  The first three title covers for the other seasons are placed in the sand.

A luminescent yellow colors the opening and closing endpapers.  The front of the jacket and case is repeated on the title page.  Throughout the book double-page photographs, in a variety of perspectives ask for our attention.  At times smaller images will be placed on these larger visuals.   The shift in point of view noted with the collage effect of the layout increases interest and exploration.  Shapes associated with summer will frame some of the pictures; sun with rays, waves, flowers, circles like bubbles, leaves, butterflies and postcards.  In addition to photographs taken by the author, visuals are used from Shutterstock and Adobe Stock.  Whenever possible children from diverse backgrounds are shown throughout this title.

One of my many favorite images is a collection on a large two-page picture of a sunny summer field.  On top of this on the left is a bright red flower with a Monarch butterfly on the petals.  To the right in circles readers are brought in close to see a labeled stamen and pistil on a flower and to see a group of honeybees working on another single flower.  

The fourth book in the series, Super Summer: All Kinds Of Summer Facts And Fun written by Bruce Goldstone with some of the photographs his own, is sure to inspire even more excitement for this season and increase an appreciation for all the possibilities.  As in the previous titles, Awesome Autumn: All Kinds Of Fall Facts And Fun, Wonderful Winter: All Kinds Of Winter Facts And Fun and Spectacular Spring: All Kinds Of Spring Facts And Fun, Bruce Goldstone closes with a series of crafts and activities along with instructions for their completion.  I highly recommend this title and this series for your professional and personal collections for the presentation of the information and images.  Readers are certain to be engaged.

To learn more about Bruce Goldstone and his other work, please access his website by following the link attached to his name.  At the publisher's website you can view several interior pages. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

A Place To Reside

With the passing of the summer solstice, trees are filled with leaves and fields are brimming with tall grasses and wildflowers.  Abundant rainfall has given Mother Nature a palette of variegated greens everywhere you look.  For their benefit, it's not as easy to spot the residences of local wildlife, unless they happen to be living underneath your back porch.  Based on the symphony of birdsong in the early hours of the day, you hope to see a nesting place, but they remain hidden.  Only the most careful observers will notice large areas of flattened grass in the morning; evidence of sleeping whitetail deer the previous night.

If we had the eyes to see the sanctuaries of the wildlife in our surrounding area, where would they be?  In other parts of the world, what is a safe space for animals' abodes?  Homes in the Wild: Where Baby Animals and Their Parents Live (Roaring Brook Press, June 18, 2019) written and illustrated by Lita Judge presents answers to readers, further increasing our admiration of all living things sharing this planet with us.

Every animal needs a home.

For some a tree is the perfect home supplying food and safety.  High among tree branches animals can sleep without fear of enemies, they can find special food or easily camouflage themselves.  For others multiple entrances and exits to an underground city of connected burrows and pathways represents the best place to live.  Did you know some warrens of the European rabbit have more than two thousand entrances and exits?

Some homes are tucked away out of sight.  A den nestled among roots, a rocky nook, or a hollow log keep babies safe when parents need to be away.  Baby animals can be more easily protected when they are nestled below ground level.  For nine-banded armadillos it keeps them cool, too.

For other animals a large area is home.  Their territories are marked by scent from urine, scat and their bodies.  Some leave scratch marks on trees and the ground, saying this space is taken.  Carefully crafted nests can present a secure place.  Some are among tree branches, in old tree trunk hollows, or under a fallen tree.  A bushy-tailed woodrat might build a nest

nine feet wide!

Homes are cleverly designed by marvelous builders.  Mountain gorillas and orangutans build new beds every day, fashioning together branches and leaves.  Beavers construct lodges from felled trees and a dam to protect the lodge.  An underwater entrance ensures the well-being of the young.

Homes can house thousands of inhabitants.  Mothers return to the place where they were raised.  Mothers can find their child among others by sound and smell.  The advantage to living in over-crowded conditions is assurance of survival.  Can you name an animal who does not hesitate to make a home in another's home?

Every animal needs a home.

The research, commitment and passion Lita Judge has for the animal community is evident in every word she writes.  In this book a single sentence introduces a type of or place for a home followed by three conversational, fact-filled paragraphs highlighting three animals.  With this approach she creates expectations, interest and a welcoming rhythm.  She enriches our understanding.  Here is a sample paragraph.

A home can
cover many
miles of 
open country.

A bonded pair of dik-dik antelopes works
constantly to mark the boundaries of their home
range.  Together, they deposit urine and dung
piles and rub their scent on twigs and blades
of grass.  Their fawn will stay safely
hidden until she is old enough to roam
with her parents.  The family establishes
a maze of trails, called runways,
through the thick brush that they use
to escape predators.

Although the spine separates the front and the back of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, readers can easily imagine the tree supporting the sleeping koala adult and child, and (to the lefty, on the back) the hollow housing three eager eastern gray squirrel babies as one and the same tree.  These two paintings appearing as one image demonstrate profoundly and beautifully how not only every animal needs a home, but how they work to make this happen.  This dust jacket and book case are an invitation to look through a wondrous window into a world Lita Judge comprehends and appreciates.

A golden orange hue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Two young raccoons clinging to a branch are featured on the initial title page.  A lovely illustration of an orangutan and child spans from the left and across the gutter on the formal title page.  Leaves in green hues frame the duo.

Two-page pictures introduce each of the nine sections.  They are highly detailed and animated in their vivid portraits of the animals.  These same animals appear again in a different setting on one of the next two pages.  These three illustrations frame the text naturally.  Each group of animals is depicted in their habitats engaged in their everyday activities.  It's as if we've become invisible and are able to step right into their lives and observe them freely.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is the two-page picture for

A home can be borrowed.

Page edge to page edge is the siding of an old barn.  A crevice in the siding in the center (nearly half of the page) begins on the left and narrows to barely a crack on the right.  Peeking through that opening are four baby raccoons.  We see less and less of their faces moving from left to right.  Lita Judge has completely captured their essence.  Three pairs of eyes look at readers.  The raccoon on the far left is looking at its siblings.

This book, Homes in the Wild: Where Baby Animals and Their Parents Live written and illustrated by Lita Judge, is a title to be read anytime, anywhere.  You'll want to use it for an animal theme, for a habitat unit, how animal parents care for their children and for the sheer joy of learning about those who need our protection.  At the close of the book, Lita Judge includes thumbnail paintings of all the animals and more information about each one on five pages.  She has a glossary, sources and good websites for more information on animal homes.  You might want to pair this book with Lita Judge's previous title, Born in the Wild or A Place To Start A Family: Poems About Creatures That Build or A Nest Is Noisy.

To learn more about Lita Judge and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Lita Judge has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view several interior images.  I know you'll enjoy both videos.

Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the titles selected this week by others participating in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

From The Woods

When you get to the conclusion of a book and wonder what happened, you know you have to read it again immediately and then again and maybe one more time.  You wonder if you need to separate what's perceived as real from what might be pure imagination.  You search for veracity. With these repeated readings you can form your own opinions. You believe what you want to believe and what you need to believe.

With books like this even after having formed a viewpoint, later it may shift as you bring new experiences to the reading of it.  Camp Tiger (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, May 21, 2019) written by Susan Choi with illustrations by John Rocco is a title with spellbinding words and illustrations.  It is in a word, unforgettable.

Every year, my mom and dad and brother and I go camping at Mountain Pond.  

It's a lengthy journey off the beaten path, ending on a road that's more rock than road until Mountain Pond, water between tree-covered mountains, appears.  The family camps at the far end of the pond.  They are alone here as school will start in September when they return home from this trip.  The narrator is not excited about beginning first grade. 

As they unload their gear from the car to set up the site, the family talks about the things they are apt to see.  During the setting up of a tent, the mother freezes.  Her family does, too.  A tiger walks out of the woods.  He's big, but not too big.  He's thin.  He talks!

He asks if they have a spare tent; his cave is cold.  When they have it erected, the youngest boy unzips it.  The tiger enters first and he follows him inside.  When he asks his mother to zip them inside, she tells him to do it himself.  She's been doing that more lately.  The child snuggles against the tiger as they chat.

During their two-day stay the tiger shares in their activities.  On the last night the tiger accompanies the boy to look for shooting stars; just the two of them in the canoe on the pond.  The next morning, an emotion threatens to overshadow the joy of the weekend for the narrator.  Arriving home before bedtime, a memory is preserved.

Award-winning author of books for adults, Susan Choi has written an enchanting story of the last lingering moments of summer and a treasured childhood age.  Her descriptions of place, family and being on the cusp of change are an exquisite blend of first-person narrative and dialogue.  These initial descriptions of the ordinary make the appearance of the tiger extraordinary and perfectly natural at the same time.  When humor finds its way into the tale, we willingly laugh with the family.  Here is a passage.

Inside the tent, the tiger lies down so he's shaped
like a C and puts his head on his paws.  I wrap my arms
around him and bury my face in his fur.  He smells like 
sunshine and pine needles.

"Tigers live in Africa," I tell him.
"Not Africa, Asia," he says.
"This isn't Africa or Asia," I tell him.
"No," sighs the tiger.

Accomplished artist John Rocco renders images so beautiful you'll have to remind yourself to breathe.  He begins with the illustrations on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  By blending the partial face of the tiger into the landscape, the imagery is magnificent.  The title text looks to be formed from the clouds billowing up between the two sides of the forest.  The family with our narrator in the lead is striding into a memorable end-of-summer adventure.  

An interior picture is used for the back on the other side of the spine.  The families red SUV carrying their red canoe looks small on the rocky road along Mountain Pond.  The pond is indeed like a mirror between the forested mountains.  

On the opening and closing endpapers in shades of darker forest green, items taken on a camping trip are spread across two pages.  Some of them are cast iron pans, silverware, a fishing net, a fishing lure, sleeping bags, tents in bags, fishing rods, canoe paddles, a lantern, a utility knife, a first aid kit, a compass, an axe, a flashlight, a canteen, matches, hiking boots, a rope, binoculars and a backpack.  Curling up from the bottom of the center of the right-hand side is the tiger's tale, bright orange with black stripes.  It is an astonishing contrast.

The illustrations are rendered

using a watercolor sketch and wash pencil and then adding the color digitally.

On the initial title page, camping gear is placed beneath the text.  On the verso and title pages a cityscape on the left, with clouds layered like whipped cream behind it, leads to mountains on the right.  Along the bottom a road is empty except for the family's red car, lights shining in the early morning.  Several small horizontal visuals on a single page highlight the journey to Mountain Pond which is given a full-page picture.

In another part of the story, four pictures, two to a page, wordlessly convey what can only be defined as magical. John Rocco shifts his illustration sizes to accentuate the story but also to elevate it.  Double-page pictures add drama as does the use of liberal white space in other images.  The details, the use of light and shadow and the altered perspectives ask you to pause on every page.  And you do . . . with great respect and awe.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the text previously noted. Across two pages, inside the blue tent, shown with a textured and faint-light splashed background, are the tiger and the younger boy.  The tiger is curled in the C shape nearly from one edge to the other.  The boy hugging the tiger is cozily shaped within the C.  Both of their eyes are open.  By the expressions on their faces, they are content and comfortable in each other's company.

After you've read this book once, twice and at least a third time, you'll long for a camping trip like this one.  Camp Tiger written by Susan Choi with illustrations by John Rocco is sheer wonder in words and illustrations.  You'll want to share it often with as many people as you can.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Susan Choi and John Rocco and their other work, please access their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Susan Choi has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  John Rocco has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website and on John Rocco's website you can view a few interior images.  At Picturebooking with Nick Patton John Rocco talks about this book in a podcast.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Sand And Water, Water And Sand

When standing on the shore at the edge of an ocean, a sea or Lake Michigan, looking to your left and to your right, the sand stretches as far as the eye can see.  This sand has been sculpted endlessly by the waves.  It awaits eager hands armed with buckets, shovels, found objects and ideas.

For hours, days and sometimes weeks all a solitary soul needs are the water and the sand.  Hum and Swish (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, June 11, 2019) written and illustrated by Matt Myers requests our presence for a day at the beach.  Like the little girl, we find solace and inspiration.

Jamie and the sea are friends.
Jamie hums.  The waves swish.

Curious beach walkers want to know what Jamie is making.  She does not know.  Another passerby remarks on her ingenuity.  Jamie does not know about that either.

People keep asking but Jamie has no answer for them.  Sometimes what people say and do, does not make Jamie happy but the sea soothes her.  To Jamie the sea reveals answers but never questions.

Her father and mother visit her; each interested in her creations and progress.  Her replies are vague.  She continues fashioning her beach designs and objects until someone new captures her attention.

She does not ask Jamie anything, but Jamie questions her.  The woman's response is exactly what Jamie has been saying to everyone.  Jamie and the woman work in companionable silence.  When Jamie finally speaks, the woman does, too.  They both display surprises.

This narrative written by Matt Myers with carefully chosen words has a rhythm similar to the sounds of the waves washing up and back on the sandy shore.  The refrain using the words hum and swish is repeated to supply a seamless flow from one portion of the narrative to another.  The dialogue makes the story more personal; we feel a kinship with Jamie in her solitary pursuit.  The arrival of the woman adds another layer to the story.  While we might be alone in our endeavors, there are others who see and understand us.  Here is a passage.

Jamie's mom brings a juice box.  "When do you
think you might be finished with your project?"

"Not sure," Jamie says.

Hum.  Swish.

Someone else comes.

For those who've ever dreamed of a day near the sea or for those who have memories of days on a beach, the open and matching dust jacket and book case are breathtaking perfection.  The waves, the gathered found objects and the little girl crouched and forming something special in the sand is a scene to cherish.  The water and shoreline extend over the spine to the left, on the back.  A curious seabird is watching the child work.

On the opening and closing endpapers in hues of blue and white, waves move toward the beach.  Sunlight peeking through a hazy, cloudy sky casts a glow on the water on the title page.  The girl is shown walking along the beach, head bent and carrying one of her discoveries.  Her hair blows in the breeze.  Across the verso and dedication pages the water washes on the shore as she bends down to start her work in the sand.  Nearby people walk along the beach.  Others are seated under umbrellas.

Rendered in acrylic and oil paint the illustrations are double-page and single-page pictures, edge to edge.  When the text is placed on a crisp white canvas opposite a painting, Matt Myers includes a smaller element; seabirds, one of Jamie's "beings" or a bucket filled with her precious treasures found along the beach.  At one point two smaller visuals are placed on a single page to enhance pacing and a shift in the narrative.

Readers will be captivated by the details in each image.  Facial expressions on all the people, especially Jamie convey a range of emotions.  The use of light and shadow is exquisite.  Sometimes Matt Myers will shift his perspective; we might only see the legs of a person questioning Jamie or we move farther back to see an entire beach scene.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  It is a close-up of Jamie.  She is seated in a small pool connected to the sea.  Behind her are some large stones, sand and cliffs with a line of evergreen trees.  The faint outline of a seabird is against the fluffy clouds.  Next to her is her yellow bucket brimming with wonders.  Jamie is holding a scallop in her hands.  A look of joy and content is evident on her face.

Hum and Swish written and illustrated by Matt Myers is a luminous portrait of the solitary bliss of creativity, of the wonder of spending time with sand and the sea and of meeting a kindred spirit.  This is a book for summer, trips to the beach, of growing an appreciation for natural wonders, of experiencing peace and being free to be yourself.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Matt Myers and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Matt Myers has a special page dedicated to this book with art and a bit of writing about his process.  This is his first picture book as author and illustrator.  Matt has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  I believe you will enjoy this video about his process.

UPDATE:  Julie Danielson, author, reviewer and blogger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast shares process art from Matt Myers, August 23, 2019.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Marvelous Manual

For thousands of years people have been leaving memories of accomplishments, dreams, discoveries, musings, mysteries, everyday occurrences and unusual events on cave walls, bone, clay, bark, metal, stone, papyrus, palm leaves, string, parchment, paper or anything else they deemed as lasting or appropriate in less than ideal circumstances.  To be able to communicate in the absence of face to face opportunities connects us to others, then and now.  To do so languages, an understanding of languages and the writing of languages continues to be vital.

When we combine words and pictures to express an idea, it is intensified; sometimes luminous.  How To Read A Book (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, June 18, 2019) written by Kwame Alexander with art by Melissa Sweet is a superb, original representation of an idea that does indeed radiate and resonate.  It invites, no, it captures our attention and holds us close even after the end.


The poem continues by advising us that a stoop is fine, too.  After all, this is what Langston Hughes favored.  Once we are snuggled in a perfect place, we take our book, and open it carefully.

It shines like the sun.  It smells like a brand-new day.  It softly tickles us.  Little by little, page turn by page turn, we enjoy what is offered.  Something is building inside us. 

Before we know it, we become one with the book.  We celebrate through the words with every living thing, their portrayal and their story.  We are entertained.  We are informed. 

We are told to savor every magical moment with unbridled exuberance but to do so with intention.  For in using care, we are able to let the words soak into hearts and minds.  The final nine words are a mantra to cherish.

Food is to be relished with all our senses; seeing, hearing smelling, touching and tasting.  When Kwame Alexander likens opening a book to the peeling of a clementine, he is welcoming us into a total sensation.  He continues to reference actions of reading with the consumption of a clementine until we are deeply committed.  With elegance he allows us to appreciate each portion of this encounter in this book and in all other books.  Here is another passage.


The neon pinks and oranges with the lighter greens and blues on the open and matching dust jacket and book case certainly energize readers with anticipation before they look inside.  Melissa Sweet's meticulous and signature collage implores us to proceed.  To the left, on the back, a superhero with HERO on her shirt, flies down from the upper, left-hand corner, her bold, glowing cape flowing behind her.

On the opening and closing endpapers, four shelves stacked with books stretch from left to right.  Pointing fingers and several spirals urge us to keep going.  These spirals appear throughout the book.  The endpapers are done in various shades of fluorescent pink. With a page turn we arrive at the title page.  It is here we are introduced to the first appearance of deer (an explanation follows in the illustrator's note) and an asterisk-like star shape.  A hand is reaching for an orange book.

The next two-page image is a three-dimensional collage composed of fifteen stripes.  Careful readers will see a clue regarding the presence of deer in the illustrations.  The verso page follows with the publication information in the shape and color of a clementine with a stem and leaf.

The illustrations rendered using

watercolor, gouache, mixed media, handmade and vintage papers, found objects, including old book covers, and a paint can lid

are full-page and double-page pictures.  They not only enhance the narrative but extend it in new and exciting directions.  Cut-out letters spell once upon a time.  They are popping out of an orange toaster plugged into a purple outlet.  The toaster happens to be a book. 

Readers will be pleasantly surprised with a horizontal gatefold which again takes the orange book and turns it into another object entirely.  It gives us windows into possibilities.  Following this are smaller pages within pages revealing joyful words and employing a die-cut splendidly.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for a phrase speaking of morning air and butterfly kisses.  This visual extends over two pages.  In the upper, left-hand corner a portion of a neon pink spiral is in place.  Underneath this is a vertical strip of paper of a green forest and rolling hills.  From this, left to right, are what might be parts of old books.  The text is on the left with a neon pink asterisk-shaped star following the period.  Extending from the right and crossing the gutter slightly is a young girl with eyes closed in contentment, her left hand raised.  Butterflies flutter about her and one lands on the text. 

You might want to have a bag of clementines, a bunch of neon markers, all sorts of paper pieces and glue handy after reading this treasure one-on-one or to a group. How To Read A Book, a poetic narrative penned by Kwame Alexander with artwork asking readers to pause by Melissa Sweet, is food for everyone's souls, readers and non-readers.  It's an experience to be shared, repeatedly.  There is an author's note and an illustrator's note at the end.  You'll want to have a copy in your professional and personal collections.  You might enjoy pairing this title with How To Read A Story by Kate Messner with illustrations by Mark Siegel.

To learn more about Kwame Alexander and Melissa Sweet and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Kwame Alexander has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Melissa Sweet has accounts on Facebook and InstagramAt the publisher's website you can listen to a portion of the book being read by Kwame Alexander.  The cover is revealed at Publishers Weekly with interviews of both creators.  There is an interview of Melissa Sweet by Jennifer Jacobson at Highlights Foundation.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Seeing Double

There will be times when a book is released, and to your surprise it's a companion to a title from the previous year.  At first you can't believe you missed the first book. (Where were you?  Under a rock?)  As quickly as possible you locate a copy through your public library.  Not only do you believe it's excellent, you know the intended audience will enjoy it, too.  You buy a copy for your personal collection.

Look (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, July 10, 2018) written and illustrated by Fiona Woodcock cleverly tells a story of a sister and brother spending a day at the zoo.  Her narrative includes words with the letter pair oo.  Each pair is incorporated into the accompanying illustration.

Prior to the title page


is being sung by a rooster.  He is perched on his house on the following verso page.  On the title page LOOK is placed on three rolling hills with a rising sun for the second letter "o".  The children, with their backs to us and wearing their pajamas, have raised their arms in a good morning stretch.

For each of the subsequent pages words describe their breakfast, their footwear, and how fast they drive toward their destination.  They exclaim hooray! on their arrival with their faces as the letters "o".  Three animals are seen, and they dance with the third, doing a boogie.  

More animals are present, butterflies swoop and primates present themselves to the children.  As the sister and brother wander, they carry balloons, find flowers which cause sneezing and satisfy a craving for a sweet treat which sadly meets with an unfortunate mishap.  At home they ready themselves for bed, read, and drift off to dreamland. 

Outside a night bird calls as our natural satellite shines.  A shower of falling stars ask us (for those awake) to LOOK.  We've come full circle. 

There are more than thirty words selected by Fiona Woodcock to tell this tale. There is usually one word per page (illustration), but that pattern is not strictly followed to create a pleasant pacing. Each word used is carefully chosen to provide readers with an interesting narrative with plenty of action.

The front of the dust jacket is a hint of events to come, asking readers to seek words with the double "o".  The array of colors in the balloons is used throughout the book.  To the left, on the back, a large faintly colored red circle on a white canvas frames the sister and brother.  She is behind him saying LOOK!  Her glasses are the double oo.  On his hat it says IT'S A and then BOOK! is across his face.  He is looking through binoculars which form the double "o".  Two beautiful large butterflies are placed on each side of the book case on a background of white.

To coincide with dawn and night the letters "o", spread across the opening and closing endpapers, change color.  On the first the shades are red, yellow and orange.  On the second they are red, blue and purple.

The artwork and hand-lettered text was created by hand-cut rubber stamps, stencils, BLO pens, and additional pencil line work, all composited digitally.

Fiona Woodcock alters her point of view to emphasize the narrative.  She begins by bringing us close to two single-page pictures and then gives us a wider view for a double-page image.  Her placement of the elements and the words changes to create an inviting rhythm.  Readers will be eagerly Looking for the double "o" words.  The heavier matte-finished paper is an ideal texture for her artwork.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages and includes two words.  On a light background colors like tiny confetti (or sprinkles) are patterned as a canvas.  Three flowers from the previous page are in the lower, left-hand corner.  Next to them are the brother and his sister.  Above them in cursive the large word drool stretches over the gutter.  On the right a hand is reaching up from the bottom of the page to grab an ice cream cone.  The top of the ice cream is the letter "o" for the word scoop.  An ice cream scoop utensil held by the vendor is placing that scoop on the cone.

This spring the second book, which lead me to Look, was released.  Hello (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, May 14, 2019) written and illustrated by Fiona Woodcock follows the siblings on another adventure. The letter pair ll and the formed words take us from the family campsite to an amusement park for the day and safely back to the tents.

Prior to the title page a bird's eye view shifts to a close-up perspective as our eyes move from left to right.  On the left side the sun rises with hello inside it.  Three tents are next to the mother's red car.  On the hill on the right a rabbit watches the scene below it.  The rabbit's ears supply the ll in the word yellow.

On the verso page the brother leans out from his tent with two little bunnies next to him.  His sister stands in front of the rising sun with HELLO beneath her.  The shadows of her two legs become the ll pair.

As the trio travel to the park the geography changes through using pairs of ll words.  A fabulous adjective depicts how excited they are to enter the park.  Words describe five different rides and exhibits and their reactions.

A mischievous brother causes an accident, but they still manage to have fun along the seashore later.  They peer at sea creatures and collect shells until their mother returns.  As night falls, they enjoy a snack courtesy of the crackling fire.

A soothing melody lulls the twosome to sleep. Well, almost both of them.  The younger brother has one more thing he wants to try.  He remembers how the day began with a greeting and a hippity-hoppity companion.

With every page turn readers will be fascinated by how Fiona Woodcock takes nearly forty words to fashion a fun-filled day.  It's exciting to see how their vacation is enhanced by the outing to the amusement park by the seashore.  The decision for determining each word creates a cadence of rising and falling action connecting readers to each event in the story.

On the front of the dust jacket the brother and sister with their hands raised as they float on the water informs readers of the happiness they hold in their hands.  These two are going entertain us from beginning to end.  To the left, on the back, a large yellow inner tube supplies a place for the siblings.  The brother with his hands raised is the double "l" for hello and the legs of his sister help to spell
all.  This is on a white canvas.  On the light background of the book case are two llamas; one is blue on the front and the other is a darker blue with purple on the back.  (You'll need to read this book to discover why they are there.)

On the opening and closing endpapers a series of the letter l are placed almost like zigzags.  On the first set the colors are blue, yellow and green.  Blue, red and purple hues are used on the second set of endpapers.

Readers will see with each page turn some of the images are connected to previous illustrations and following pictures, flowing flawlessly.  As the family leaves the tents behind on the left and travel toward the park, we see it in the distance on the right.  On the next page it is magnified like a bold statement across two pages.  Several of the rides seen in this expansive view appear later and much closer to readers.  (It will be interesting to see if readers can see some elements from the first book in this second title.)

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It is for the word gallop.  Six merry-go-round horses ride from left to right, some more prevalent than others to give the impression of motion.  The letter g is to the left of the gutter.  The poles from the sister's and brother's horses provide the ll pair.  The duo is looking directly at the reader.

Both Look and Hello written and illustrated by Fiona Woodcock are imaginative and ingenious stories certain to actively engage readers.  Without a doubt readers and listeners will be eager to alter or expand these stories or write their own using words with pairs of letters.  I highly recommend both titles for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Fiona Woodcock and her other work, please follow the links attached to her name to access her website.  The second link takes you to a page for Hello.  You can view additional images there.  Some of them are different from those found at the publisher's website.  Fiona Woodcock has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Fiona Woodcock and these two books are showcased at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast here and here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

In The Darkness Of The Desert

We spend a lot of days waiting in anticipation.  It's safe to say those events we long for alter with age but some of them remain forever.  We wait for the first day of school and the last day of school.  We thrill at the first brilliant bursts of yellow, orange and red leaves in the autumn and the first snowfall that coats everything like white frosting.  After a long, chilly, windy winter we look for the first daffodil and tulip leaves to push through the ground.  We cheer at the first sighting of birds returning from the south.  There is no symphony to equal their songs.  We give an inward sigh at the honeybees finally flying between clover blossoms.

Around the world there are other people and living beings who await change or the arrival of something special.  The Night Flower (Big Picture Press, an imprint of Candlewick Press, March 12, 2019) written and illustrated by Lara Hawthorne presents an annual event and its effect on all who dwell in the surrounding area.  It is a singular spectacle. 

Carnegiea gigantea  

The saguaro cactus is found in the Sonoran desert, which stretches approximately 100,400 square miles/260,000 square kilometers from the southwestern United States to northwestern Mexico.

One night a year the flowers on this cactus unfold.  Their perfume is like ambrosia to native pollinators.  Thousands swarm to feed on the nectar and assist in spreading the pollen and seeds.

At sunrise in the spring certain animals in the Sonoran desert wake.  The tops of the cactus provide a safe perch for birds and woodpeckers make holes in the trunks for homes.  Other colorful blossoms beckon to insects and birds that stop for a sweet sip.

Deer and squirrels use nearby trees with leaves for shade, food and recreation.  As the day gets hotter, activity slows.  Cool spots for resting are sought by the creatures.  They wait for the night flower.  Temperatures drop as the sun sets.  Those that thrive in the darkness move, mingle and seek food.

Green buds on the saguaro cactus open to reveal a stunning white bloom.  Bats swoop for a drink.  When dawn brings new light, birds and bees hurry to enjoy the treat.  The flowers will fade but they leave a fruit behind.  From this a new saguaro will grow.  (Did you know there can be as many as 2,000 seeds in a fruit?  Did you know it takes 100 years for an arm to grow on a saguaro?)

After the three sentence introductory paragraph on the title page, Lara Hawthorne leads us into the desert world of the saguaro cactus with four-sentence (phrase), rhyming poetic descriptions. Lines one and two and three and four create a soothing, rhythmic narrative informing us of the day and night activities of the creatures.  We can feel, like the living beings there, the excitement for this annual happening growing.  We rejoice with them.  Here is a passage.

As the darkness sets in, moths stir in delight,
searching for flowers in the cool desert night.
A fierce, furry hunter with sharp, pointed teeth
howls at the sky on its little pink feet.

To draw our attention to the book, Lara Hawthorne brings us close to the saguaro cactus blossom as the scent invites in eager insects.  What you cannot see are the flecks of gold foil details on every element including the title.  Only Lara Hawthorne remains in its soft white.  To the left, on the back of the open book case, we are given a larger view of the cactus at night.  Creatures move on the ground, an owl sits on an arm, eyes peer from a hole in the trunk, insects fly, and a bat crosses the full moon.  Text placed here represents what would appear on the front flap of a dust jacket.

On the opening and closing endpapers a tiny print of the saguaro cactus, other types of cactus, types of leafy trees and shrubs and some of the animals mentioned in the book spans both pages.  A similar pattern appears within the book as the sun sets.  Rendered in watercolor and colored digitally the images, on heavier, matte-finished paper, span two pages throughout the book.  A full-color palette and intricate details guide us through this spectacular landscape.

Lara Hawthorne moves us close and then takes us back, altering her perspective to further acquaint us with this desert, its flora and fauna.  In one picture our focus is on the tops of the saguaro cactus where birds rest and others peek from the hole-made homes.  Small bushes on sandy soil provide a soft background.  In another visual a hot orange sun spreads heat over red mountains as reptiles seek shelter and insects meander among the plants.

One of my favorite illustrations is a close-up of delicate desert flowers.  Moving among them and savoring the nectar are butterflies, bees, other flying insects and one graceful blue bird with a long beak.  The flowers flow up both sides, along the bottom and to the right of the gutter.  

When you read a book like The Night Flower written and illustrated by Lara Hawthorne, you can't help but be further astounded at the beauty found on our planet.  This is the kind of book necessary to build respect for caring for each habitat.  At the close of the book Lara Hawthorne has a page dedicated to the life cycle of a saguaro, a page for all the parts on a saguaro (They can store up to 240 gallons of water!), two pages supplying further information about ten animals and a single-page glossary.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Lara Hawthorne and her other work, please access her website by following the link attached to her name.  The second link is to the page dedicated to this title.  She shares additional images plus one display which will surprise and astonish you.  Lara Hawthorne has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  There are interior images at Penguin Random House and Templar.  Here's a little bit more information at the National Park Service site about the cactus.

To enjoy the titles selected this week by other participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, please visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Schoolmates For A Day

First day jitters are a common state of being for anyone at any age.  If it's your first day at a new school, those jitters are amplified.  You have new subjects to learn.  You have new children to meet, and, hopefully, friendships to grow.  You have a new teacher and other educators in the building to understand.  It's tad bit daunting to say the least. 

One of the most soothing solutions to first day jitters is to share these worries with a friend.  Shared worries shrink.  In Bunny's Book Club (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, February 7, 2017) written by Annie Silvestro with illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, we met a group of friends who bonded over their love of books, reading and one library in particular.  In a companion title, Bunny's Book Club Goes To School (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, June 18, 2019), created in collaboration by Annie Silvestro and Tatjana Mai-Wyss, readers welcome back the charming creatures and their new human friend, Josie.  Josie and readers will realize friendship extends beyond four familiar walls and into new places with new people.

Bunny's Book Club met at the library every Saturday.  Bunny and his forest friends arrived even before the librarian.

They could hardly contain their excitement at getting new books.  The library was also a place of new adventures for each of the nine companions; each one did what they loved best.  One was on the computer, another was making a new paper craft and one was completing a puzzle.  Bunny was seated and reading with Josie.  Their affection for books and for each other was known by all.

When Josie told Bunny she was worried about her first day at a new school, he tried to reassure her.  That night getting ready for bed, he had a big-sized bright idea.  The next day on his way to Josie's school, Bunny bumped into Porcupine.  When Bunny said he was going to school because Josie needed a friend, Porcupine wanted to go, too.  Seven chance encounters later and nine woodland critters were headed to school.

It wasn't easy to spot Josie in the large crowd.  When they finally saw her, she vanished inside before they could reach her.  Looking into classroom after classroom, they could not find her until suddenly Squirrel thought he saw her in the gymnasium.  She was not there and after a bit of fun, they all left except for Squirrel.  Seven mistakes later, Bunny found himself alone looking for Josie.  Each of the book buddies decided to stay in the rooms suited to their pastimes.

Feeling a little bit sad, Bunny suddenly felt his soul soar.  It was the school's library.  Oh, this was pure bliss!  In short order Bunny was pointing outside to his eight pals who arrived.  Libraries have a way of providing perfect solutions and multiplying friends.

When Annie Silvestro writes we want to step into the world pictured by her words.  She fashions a rhythm with the nine forest friends by telling us what they enjoy at the library, by having them follow Bunny to Josie's school and by having them remain behind in separate classrooms to do what they love above all else (except for books).  Even though they have different passions, they love Bunny and Josie.  It's friendship that ties them together. 

Woven into her lovely descriptions of place and time in the narrative, Annie Silvestro places inviting conversations with equally expressive points of view.  We find ourselves further connected to these enchanting characters and their personalities.  Here is a passage and two other sentences.

A ball whizzed over their heads.
They couldn't resist jumping and dodging and dunking
until Bunny blew a whistle.
"We have a job to do," he said.  "Come on!"
The animals hurried out.  Except for Squirrel.
"I'm gonna hang out here just another minute," she said.

He burst into the school's library.  It smelled like home!

On the open dust jacket the full color images by Tatjana Mai-Wyss  convey total comfort and contentment by the forest friends and their new library buddy, Josie.  They are shown in their favorite place with their favorite people doing what brings them the greatest satisfaction.  The characters and title text are varnished.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of lighter purple, Bunny is cuddled with Josie in a library chair, reading.  Off to the right side on a stack of books, Bird continues to listen to an audiobook.  (I am not sure if these images are used for the book case.  I am working with an F & G.)

The opening and closing endpapers are a fabulous portrait of the school building's brick wall and three floors of windows, six windows to a floor.  The first two sets are rectangular.  The top set are arched windows.  Each window shows a different scene in a different place in the school.  They highlight students and the animals exploring their interests.  On the title page Bunny, Porcupine and Bird are carrying books as they walk through the forest.

Readers will find themselves pausing at every picture to savor the details included by artist Tatjana Mai-Wyss.  Her fine lines (look at Porcupine's quills) and delicate brush strokes depict scenes of warmth, happiness and affectionate companionship.  Readers will appreciate Porcupine's intensity in making origami with his tongue out in concentration.  They will laugh at Bunny's bunny slippers.  They will find Mouse and Bear sticking together endearing.

The image sizes vary from double-page visuals to full-page pictures, and to several smaller illustrations on a page.  They provide stellar pacing, flowing easily from page to page.  Different perspectives contribute to the emotional state of the characters.  There is plenty of humor too.  Guess who's on the school bus at the close of the day?

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  All the animals are in the gymnasium.  Six basketballs are in motion.  Three of four children are engaged with the critters.  One watches from a ladder along the wall.  Bird is perched on the top of the backboard.  Squirrel is hanging from the net.  Bear is shooting a basket.  Raccoon is passing a ball.  Mole is spinning a ball on his nose.  Bunny is blowing a whistle.  You can feel the chaotic happiness in this illustration.  (Another important point is Tatjana Mai-Wyss includes all kinds of children in these pictures from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.)

When you read or listen to Bunny's Book Club Goes To School written by Annie Silvestro with illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss the joy from the pages wraps around you like a hug.  Without a doubt this title will be a huge hit at storytime in libraries, classrooms and in homes for a bedtime book.  It's an ode to books, libraries and friendship which you will want in your professional and personal collections. 

To learn more about Annie Silvestro and Tatjana Mai-Wyss and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Annie Silvestro has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Tatjana Mai-Wyss has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the wonderful endpapers and a few of the beginning images.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Odd Rat Out

Being true to yourself is exhilarating and sometimes lonely.  If there is something odd about you that sets you apart from everyone else, it can be tricky to find friends.  There will be times when you wonder if you should conform in order to be less alone.  Yet, giving up those things which make you wonderfully unique brings its own kind of sadness.  It's an age-old mental conflict.

Being a naked mole rat has its own challenges, but Sweety (Schwartz & Wade Books, March 26, 2019) written and illustrated by Andrea Zuill portrays a girl with additional quirks.  Some might say this youngster is hearing an entire symphony rather than only a different drummer.  She (and readers) will come to understand no one is entirely apart from everyone.

Sweety was awkward.
Even for a naked mole rat.

She was referred as a little square peg by her grandmother.  Although the exact definition of this eluded her, she knew she was sometimes an outsider.  Her description of something as simple as her doll when compared to others in her company was too bold and excessive.  No one seemed to share her unusual hobbies.  And how many students do you know who gave a book report

through interpretive dance?

Yes, Sweety was no ordinary naked mole rat.  She did wish to be like others, but she also enjoyed being herself, too.  When her Aunt Ruth, her mother's sister, came for visits, Sweety felt the best.  These two were like the proverbial peas in a pod.

During her last visit Aunt Ruth told Sweety about being a little square peg.  She encouraged her to hold tightly to those things making her a special individual.  She also spoke about finding like-minded people.  This gave Sweety a whole bunch of new thoughts to ponder.

If there were people like her out in the world, she needed to recognize them.  How would she do this?  Some of her ideas bordered on extreme, other plans were more conventional.  It's when she decided on the best course to follow that the desired but unexpected happened.

There is something delightful about naming a naked mole rat Sweety.  In doing this author Andrea Zuill has our immediate attention.  Her blend of conversational narrative with supporting dialogue makes further connections and adds considerable humor to the story.  While we are smiling and sometimes laughing, we are also understanding Sweety and her need to stay exactly the way she is.  Here is a passage.

And most people found her
hobbies a bit bizarre.

Would you like to 
come over to my house
and help me identify

No, thank you. 

I don't know about you, but seeing Sweety on the open and matching dust jacket and book case calmly seated on a bench among flowers on the front makes me grin . . . a lot.  Those glasses with the thick lens and braces on her teeth set her apart quickly, but we also see a person . . .er . . .naked mole rat with a great deal of self-confidence.  To the left, on the back, on a lighter canvas an image from the interior of the book shows Sweety loudly proclaiming through a bull horn her virtues to another naked mole rat in hopes of finding someone like her.

A deep golden brown covers the beginning endpapers and the color used in the title text covers the closing endpapers.  On the title page beneath the text Sweety is seated underneath and next to lovely blue mushrooms with yellow flecks.  She is reading a book.

Rendered in pen-and-ink, scanned and colored digitally the illustrations by Andrea Zuill are highly detailed and animated.  On the first two-page picture she has an aside in parenthesis about naked mole rats, their lack of fur and their love of clothes.  Her image sizes vary according to the story and pacing.

Her characters tend to be in bolder brighter colors set against a softer background.  (You can see this on the front of the jacket and case and throughout the title.)  Elements in visuals pay tribute to those things naked mole rats and Sweety enjoy; a chart of root vegetables in the underground classroom and a mushroom lamp in Sweety's bedroom.  Facial expressions and body positions depict emotional moments but like the text also lend themselves to comedy.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page pictures.  We are underground in Sweety's classroom.  Near the center of the picture her teacher is seated at her desk in front of a blackboard.  To her right is the tunnel used as an entrance and exit.  To the right of this is a set of bookshelves.  Sweety is to the left of her teacher clothed in a purple one-piece suit, eyes closed and dancing with a pointed toe and arms flexed a la Martha Graham.  Four classmates are seated at desks along the bottom of the two pages.  One is asking about what book Sweety has read.

This is a book for those who embrace life with a difference and for those who do not.  It helps the first group to stay the course and to not feel alone and reminds the second set of people everyone is valuable.  Sweety written and illustrated by Andrea Zuill is a title you will want to have on your professional bookshelves and in your personal collection too.  We all need reminding every now and then that different is superb.

To learn more about Andrea Zuill and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Andrea Zuill has an account on Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the first few interior images.  On KPBS Andrea Zuill chats about this book.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson features Andrea Zuill and this title at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Precious Papas

Even after a hard day of work, he had time for a make-believe adventure.  Lying on his back, knees bent and hands next to his head with the palms up, Dad became an automobile.  Seated on his knees, with hands grasping an imaginary steering wheel, I was the driver.  Our destination and the time to get there was controlled by my feet pushing on his hands, one for the brakes and one for the accelerator.  As the driver I would honk the horn with ease and as the automobile, he made appropriate engine, wheel and road sounds.  What grand trips we took!

Making these magical moments happen is a gift fathers give to their daughters and sons.  Side by Side: A Celebration Of Dads (Phaidon Press Limited, March 11, 2019) written and illustrated by Chris Raschka showcases fathers and their children living in treasured tandem.  These generous gestures, these shared minutes or hours, live on from generation to generation.

In this title six fathers and their daughters or sons enjoy three different activities sparingly named. In the first two the pair each play a part in an inseparable pastime or as opposites in a common theme.  In the third scene their pursuit is labeled

Side by side.

A crown-wearing daughter is royalty.  Her father is assigned to make her laugh as jester.  A boy is scooped into his father's lowered arms.  One is the crane and the other is the cargo.  When rain falls this father and his son stand together beneath an umbrella.

A dad sits reading in an outdoor chair.  His daughter, magnifying glass in hand is looking at something in the grass.  They are

Base and explorer.

There is a mountain to be climbed and a game of checkers to be played. The role of teacher and learner is switched before a twosome soars on swings.  Fathers offer the comfort of a cozy place to lay our heads.  Whatever the endeavor, they are here . . . always.

Using the principal of less is more, Chris Raschka elevates it to excellence in this book.  Three words describe each scene simply.  By having the title text conclude the third feature, it supplies a rhythm and a connection between all six fathers and their daughters and sons.  We are soothed and lulled by these words.

One of the first things readers will notice about this book is the trim size.  The width (6 1/2 ") is designed to be held easily by hands of all sizes.  The height (11") is reminiscent of The Tall Book series published in the 1950s.  When the dust jacket is opened the white canvas continues on the other side of the spine to the left, on the back.  The only items pictured are the shoes of the father and daughter shown on the front.  Although the illustrations are in full color, the use of primary colors grabs our attention.

On the book case in loose squares and rectangles, Chris Raschka has created a pattern of twenty-four different elements with a heavy emphasis on oranges and yellows in the designs.  The title text is placed in one of the shapes.  The lines, drops, flowers, dots, circles, crosses and curly leaves on stems exude joy.

On the opening and closing endpapers pairs of hats for fathers and daughters and sons and pairs of shoes for fathers and daughters and sons, are shown, respectively.  There are twelve sets each.  Readers will enjoy matching the hats and shoes to the characters inside the book.

Chris Raschka's signature artwork on heavier, matte-finished paper radiates from the double-page pictures with exuberance.  His flowing, loose lines and blend of soft and darker shades portrays with perfection the affection between the fathers and their children.  This not only envelopes readers but draws them into each scene.  After the first three fathers and their children but before the second set of three, a two-page image shows each parent and child enjoying ice cream or popsicles from a vendor.  It's as if they all arrived at the park at the same time.  Each duo is framed separately along with the seller.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for one of the

Side by side 

settings.  A father and his daughter are lying on beach towels in the sun.  They are lying on their backs with their bare feet extended toward the reader.  They are wearing shorts, tops and sunglasses.  He has a red towel and a red umbrella over him.  She has a purple towel and a green umbrella over her.

Surely every reader will find an occasion captured in this book, Side by Side: A Celebration Of Dads written and illustrated by Chris Raschka, which replicates one they've had or will trigger the memory of a similar experience.  You can hold the love expressed in these pages in your hands even after you've finished the book and set it aside.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Chris Raschka and his other work, you might want to look at an earlier post on a website linked to his name.  Chris Raschka has an account on Twitter.  He regularly posts his artwork.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Please enjoy this video from September 2018 where Chris Raschka shares his process.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

You Belong

As an educator, as a teacher librarian, all the children in any given school in any given year enter your classroom, the school library.  They arrive from an assortment of families, economic conditions, ethnic and racial backgrounds with a range of personalities and potential.  They are all beautiful, important and of immeasurable value.

Depending on the community in which they live, some of them for reasons of physical characteristics, language, clothing, cultural or religious practices feel as though they don't belong.  They are asked questions they are unable to answer to the satisfaction of other children or adults.  Where Are You From? (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, June 4, 2019) written by Yamile Saied Mendez with illustrations by Jaime Kim gives readers the best and only responses of true worth.

Where are you from?
they ask.

A little girl is questioned by her classmates.  Adults want to know if her parents are from here or from there.  When her reply prompts them to continue to question her, she is confused. She decides to ask her grandfather, her Abuelo,

because he knows everything.

Walking together with his granddaughter, Abuelo stops for a moment to think. He tells her she comes from the Pampas, the gaucho and the brown river.  He further describes the meaning and value of each geographical feature and person.  He continues this journey by taking her to mountain peaks and oceans painting pictures with his words of the flora and fauna dwelling there.

She also is a part of wild unexpected weather found in this portion of the world as well as the calmer ebb and flow of sunshine and rain.  Each sentence from Abuelo to his beloved little girl speaks of the land and the people and the histories attached to both.  The child, like those who questioned her, wants more.  She needs a specific place.

His response is certain to cause gasps in all readers.  Without a doubt, his granddaughter stops for a moment as joy and warmth fill her soul.  As Abuelo takes her home and holds her close, he speaks of universal, timeless beliefs which will resonate with all of us.

There is not a child (or an adult) who reads the words written by Yamile Saied Mendez that will not feel a connection.  The desire to know who came before us in our families is strong but even more urgent when others press us for answers other than those we know.  Abuelo's descriptions are lyrical and simply lovely; almost like a lullaby.  Through his words we walk through all aspects of a land, its inhabitants and the history of its people.  Each of these portrayals, like layers, are designed to lead us back to the girl's original question.  This makes Abuelo's final words more potent.  Here is a passage.

You're from mountains so high
they tickle Senor Cielo's belly,

where the condor roosts his family
and the jaguar prowls the night.

In a word the image seen on the open and matching dust jacket and book case is bliss.  You can see the shared pleasure in each other's company on both faces.  The path through the field with birds against the afternoon sky contributes to the golden emotional glow.  The field stretches over the spine to the far-left edge.  There are color variations in the grass as if a gentle breeze is blowing.  Even more birds in the same flock are shown flying.  On the jacket the title text, the child and her grandfather are varnished.

On the opening and closing endpapers a vista of mountains and an ocean spreads edge to edge.  In the first a palette of green shades and yellow depicts the start of a day with the large sun rising between peaks and glistening on the water.  Birds are flying from both directions.  On the final endpapers hues of purple color the sky, mountains and water.  A darker golden yellow and orange paint the setting sun.  Birds are again flying from both directions.  Both scenes present serenity.

The pictures rendered in watercolor and digital techniques to create the digital illustrations by Jaime Kim are brimming with animation.  The sizes move from full-page pictures to double-page pictures when the little girl is chatting with Abuelo.  With each page turn you can sense the mood and emotions intensifying by Jaime Kim's use of color.

To enrich the warmth of the narrative Jaime Kim alters her points of view.  Sometimes the pair are viewed close-up or as part of a larger landscape.  Their attire might change depending on the sentences.  They are seen riding horses and wearing appropriate attire when gaucho is mentioned.  Sometimes the reader is given more of a bird's eye view of a scene as in the plaza with reference to Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.  Readers will finally notice the sky changing color as dusk descends on the pair.  This enhances the final sentences and the final image.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It is night.  A few golden stars sparkle in the deep blue and purple sky.  This spreads as a canvas on the two pages.  Along the bottom of the page, outlined in those blue and purple colors, are grasses from the field enlarged as if we are peering through them lying on our stomachs.  On the right behind some of the grass the grandfather and his granddaughter sit.  Their backs are to us.  They are looking up.  One of Abuelo's arms is around the little girl; the other is pointing at the North Star.  Simply precious.

Lovingly written by Yamile Saied Mendez and lovingly illustrated by Jaime Kim, this book, Where Are You From?, tells readers all they need to know about their origins.  At the close of this title, readers will realize the human heart is a landscape large enough to include everyone.  I highly recommend this book for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Yamile Saied Mendez and Jaime Kim and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Yamile Saied Mendez has an account on Twitter.  Jaime Kim has an account on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images from the beginning of the book.  There is also a printable activity, a family tree to complete.  Here is a link to a letter written by Yamile Saied Mendez about this book.