Quote of the Month

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

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.

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