Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, August 31, 2019

From The Vines

Cooler nights the past week have hinted at the nearness of autumn.  There's not as much birdsong in the air in the mornings signaling the beginning of their migration south for the winter.  Farmers' markets are filled with an abundance of summer-harvest fruits, vegetables, flowers, honey and other homemade delicacies.

Pumpkins are ripening on their vines. It's that special time of year to make selections for celebrations of Halloween.  Pick a Pumpkin (Candlewick Press, July 9, 2019), a companion to Pick a Pine Tree (Candlewick Press, September 19, 2017) written by Patricia Toht with illustrations by Jarvis follows a family from seeking the perfect pumpkins to strolling through their neighborhood on a spooky October 31st.

Pick a pumpkin 
from the patch---

tall and lean
or short and fat.

There is an abundance of colors of orange, some white and green, too.  This mom and her children fill their wagon with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes.  They take a break to sip on an autumn drink and munch on crispy, candy-coated apples.

Once home every speck of dirt is removed from their chosen gourds.  An area is made ready for carving and tools, utensils and bowls are brought outside.  A few neighbor children join the fun. 

Cutting, pulling and scooping clear the canvas.  Let the creativity begin!  Eyes wide with wonder or suspicious slits and noses form above mouths of happy grins or grumbling growls.  Soon all the pumpkins are completed to perfection.

Next the outside of the house with the help of dad is adorned with webs and web-weavers, shimmering ghosts, skeletons and swooping bats.  All the children don their costumes cheerfully chattering.  There's a witch, a mummy and is that a cute little pumpkin in mom's arms?  Those perfect pumpkin prizes are carried to their places; now glowing, the jack-o-lanterns are sidewalk sentries.  There's only one thing left to do, and it's done with exuberance.

Author Patricia Toht welcome us with her masterful use of poetic language, punctuation and pauses into the marvelous atmosphere of preparing for this holiday.  Her sentences with their embedded rhymes are like stanzas in a melody leading us into this night full of magic and mystery.  Alliterative phrases will have readers ready to move.  Here is a passage.

Lumpy chunks. Sticky strings.
Clumpy seeds. Guts and things.
With a spoon, scrape sides neatly.
Clean the inside out completely.
           Now all together . . .

Across the open and matching dust jacket and book case are pumpkins and one jack-o-lantern of every shape and size and shade.  The color palette radiates Halloween with hues of orange, purple, blue, green and a spooky white.  The costumed siblings can hardly contain their delight among the webs, spiders, bats, black cats, scurrying and curious mice, birds, autumn leaves and a wide-eyed ghost positioned around the ISBN on the back.

On the opening endpapers is a vast autumn sky with the birds shown on the jacket and cover flying over a nearly setting sun. On the closing endpapers it's the same scene with leafless branches and shrubs along the bottom and the huge sky above.  Now that sky is darkened, and the sun is replaced with a full moon.  Is that who I think it is riding her broom across the moon?  The birds have been replaced with bats.

The verso and title pages are a stunning work of art by illustrator Jarvis.  A row of autumn trees spans both pages with a windmill on the far right.  In front of them is a three-rail farm fence.  We move in close for the lower half of the illustration.  Muted-fall foliage is scattered on the ground.  On the right two large pumpkins are growing from vines.  Three crows, one on the left, watch and caw. 

Rendered in pencil, chalk, and paint and colored digitally all the illustrations are double-page pictures.  The choices of color for all the elements, including backgrounds which accentuate the other details, are absolutely splendid. Every visual is full of anticipation and animation.  The expressions on the people's faces convey pure excitement.  There are birds, mice and a black cat in nearly every picture. (Readers are going to love looking for those creatures.)  Near the pumpkin patch are two shops; one named Jarvis Art Supplies and the other Patty's Book Shop.  You won't believe the number on the side of the wagon the family is using at the farm.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when the family and neighborhood children are standing in front of the pumpkin, now a glowing jack-o-lantern.  The background is hues of blue darkening to deeper greens near the bottom.  Dad, on the left as a vampire, has his hand resting on mom's shoulder as she stands on the right.  She's wearing devil horns and holding the baby garbed in a pumpkin costume.  Left to right are two children on either side of the gutter wearing their costumes.  One is holding the cat.  In a low arc at the bottom is the top of the jack-o-lantern with its stem in the gutter and extending out on either side.  All their faces show awe.  They are radiant from the light of the jack-o-lantern.

If you are looking for the ideal pumpkin or Halloween title, then this book, Pick a Pumpkin written by Patricia Toht with illustrations by Jarvis comes highly recommended.  I can't imagine a storytime without this title as a selection.  You'll definitely want to have a copy in your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Patricia Toht and Jarvis and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Patricia Toht has accounts on Instagram and Twitter  You can find Jarvis on Instagram and Twitter, too.  At the publisher's website and at Penguin Random House you can view interior images.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

At Water's Edge

As the weekend of the unofficial end of summer approaches, the beach along Lake Michigan has been anything but favorable for exploring.  There have been gale warnings, rip tide warnings, small craft and lakeshore flood advisories for the past two days.  The good news is all this wind changes the sand, creating an altered landscape.  The high waves wash in new treasures to discover.  It's paradise for beachcombers.

You never know what wonders await as you walk along the water's edge.  In Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2019) written by Susan Wood with illustrations by Steliyana Doneva we spend the day at the beach with a family.  The siblings find the most interesting markings in the sand.

Sandy feet,
on the beach,
make prints in the sand.

The first set of prints are easy to name.  The family has a frisky pup with them.  The brother spies delicate three-toed shapes.  Can you name this bird with thin legs and a hopping gait?

Shallow scoops like a miniature highway zig and zag across the sand as something scurries.  Watch out for those two claws!  A familiar scavenger leaves prints before flying away crying like a crow of the water.  

One of the silent sentinels of the sea glides by, drops and scoops up a tasty tidbit.  Along the sand something else moves using five legs.  How fast will it go?  It's watched by barnacles clinging to wooden pier posts.  

How fortunate for these children to see this sight as a nest is hollowed in the warm sand.  Later, their architectural skills form a marvel.  Laughter follows as their mother helps them find another use for their piles of sand.  There's nothing quite like a day at the beach with this family and Mother Nature.

Little readers and listeners and those reading this book penned by Susan Wood will feel the spell cast by her use of language.  The rhyming words at the end of every two sentences depict a rhythm not unlike the gentle cadence of waves on a sandy shore.  With ease we move from one creature to the next one and complete the circle as we begin---with the family.  Susan Wood uses lively verbs and adjectives to describe each kind of feet and the actions of the individuals.  Here is the sentence which follows the first one.

Digging feet,
furry, friendly,
wet dog licks your hand.

The sandy beach extends over the spine to the far left of the back on the matching dust jacket and book case.  The children mirror the actions of those enjoying a day at the beach.  It's a contrast between lots of motion and careful contemplation.  The billowing clouds match the foaming of the waves.  I wonder if readers can name the prints in the sand before reading the book.

On the back two sandpipers move from the left to the right.  Above them are two photographic snapshots.  They are portions of interior images of a sea turtle and a crab.  Both are captioned and ready to be placed in an album.

The opening and closing endpapers are a crisp white like the clouds and foam from the waves.  Illustrator Steliyana Doneva gives us a sandy background for the title page text.  Starfish prints move in a loop from the left edge to the right edge. For the first page turn there is no text, but the visual story begins with the parents walking to the beach carrying gear as their children and dog run into the water.

All the illustrations span two pages.  The perspectives vary with elements being close to us as others in the same scene are farther away.  Sometimes we get the sense there are dunes rolling along the beach.  We may only see human feet and ankles as a bird walks past them or we may be looking down at the children as another creature hurries away.  It's as if Steliyana Doneva presents us with a sensory experience in her artwork.  We feel the joy expressed on the humans' faces and their dog's face, too.  Another technique she employs is to give a hint of the next sentence by placing those footprints in the sand in the previous image.

One of my favorite illustrations features a bird's eye, but close-up view of the children.  Their heads are bent studying the markings in the sand.  Sand fills most of the two pages but the waves' foam forms a half circle from the left edge to the right edge.  Both children are on the left.  A crab moves from the left to the right side.  In front of it are a new set of prints.

There are still beach days left for this summer in Michigan and for many places in our world, there are beach days every day.  This title, Sandy Feet! Whose Feet? Footprints at the Shore written by Susan Wood with illustrations by Steliyana Doneva, mirrors this adventure beautifully.  At the close of the book two pages are dedicated to providing further information about the nine footprints shown in the words and pictures.  Readers are challenged to be ecology detectives using their observations, cameras and sketch pads and pencils.  You'll want to have a copy of this book for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Susan Wood and her other work, please access her website by following the link attached to her name.  Susan Wood has an account on Twitter.  Steliyana Doneva lives and works with her family in Sofia, Bulgaria.  The link attached to her name is an artists' website.  She is interviewed at Kid Lit 411 and Miss Marple's Musings.

Please remember to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other selections this week by those participating in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A Fascinating Fellow To Follow . . . Again

There is a fine line in choosing to follow when curiosity beckons.  If we stay, we avoid possible pitfalls, but may miss out on a one-of-a-kind adventure.  If we go, we might be walking into a how-do-we-get-out-of-this disaster or we may experience complete joy.  There's really no predicting what will occur. 

If you happen to be a fearless feline like the one we met in Spot, the Cat (Little Simon, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, March 1, 2016) conceived and illustrated by Henry Cole, there is no weighing of possible outcomes.  You go with gusto.  This cat is back in a companion title, Spot & Dot (Little Simon, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, August 13, 2019).  It's an intricately designed wordless wonder introducing two new characters by Henry Cole.  It's a single story weaving through an entire city brimming with stories.

Spot, the cat, is stretching toward the open window from the back of his boy's chair.  He joins Spot at the window to watch a young girl, a new neighbor, post a lost pet sign.  The boy and girl don't know, but Spot has seen the runaway dog, Dot, and is in pursuit.

As the dog runs through the bustling Antique fair, Spot is not far behind.  When Dot hops on one of several city buses, the cat knows exactly which one to board.  The dog's nose knows a certain shop, Maxine's Bakery, is apt to have treats.  It's loads of fun to watch how people do or don't respond to the duo running through the bakery.

Meanwhile, back near Spot's and Dot's humans' homes, the boy and girl are working together, posting the lost dog flyers everywhere and asking people if they've seen her.  The boy has no idea Spot has vanished again.  At the dog park, Spot is closing the distance to Dot which is a miracle considering the chaos of dozens and dozens of dogs and their humans. They race from one venue to the next, one noisy and the other pleasantly quieter.

Discouraged the boy and his new friend climb the stairs to their respective homes.  Wait a minute! Two wayward pets complete their tour of the city and its multitude of occupants.  Two sets of new friends know home is the ultimate destination.

Eager readers know an escapade is in the offing as they watch Spot and Dot, strategically placed above their names in the title, race down the city street.  Each home in the row of houses, spread across the open and matching dust jacket and book case, offers additional tales of the residents, humans and animals.  Some notice the passing of Spot and Dot, wondering about their wandering.  Readers will enjoy running their hands over the dust jacket to feel the raised portions of the image and text.

On the opening and closing endpapers the purple color used for the street becomes a background.  Henry Cole begins this story without words on his title page with more of his highly intricate artwork.  Each fine line is carefully placed to portray a breathtaking whole.  Single page pictures from varying perspectives start the story building with a gentle tension, moving between the boy and girl and Spot chasing after Dot.  When the focus shifts to the dog and cat alone, readers find themselves dazzled by fabulous double-page illustrations. 

Each of these double-page visuals asks us to pause.  We peer in windows to see movers and painters working inside the neighbor's house, fish swim in two different bowls above the fish market and a dog wishing for the same freedom as he watches Spot race past his door.  In the Antique fair there are thousands of objects displayed by vendors.  The Hot Dog food truck seems to be where Dot is headed, but she's got more important things on her mind.

Readers will be fascinated by the banners hanging on the city buses advertising canine treats and treatments for fleas.  I can almost hear readers gasping when Dot enters the bakery.  You'll can almost smell the wondrous odors of pastries and fresh hot drinks in the air, but then you'll notice a cat running along the counter and a dog running behind the counter.  The expressions and body postures of every living thing, throughout the title, are completely captivating and convey the vibrant life through which this dog and cat are exploring.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Dot and Spot are scampering through the public library.  We see Spot entering on the left as Dog runs nearly off the page on the right.  The READ posters on the circulation desk feature dogs.  Many of the patrons are reading dog books.  One of the librarians is reading a dog book aloud for storytelling.  Some of the people don't even realize a cat and dog are present.  The facial features on others range from inquisitiveness to I can't believe what I am seeing.  The upholstery on the comfy chairs is spotted/dotted as is the fabric on a woman's skirt.

With the final three full-page pictures, readers will feel the same contentment seen on the faces of one cat and one dog and two humans in Spot & Dot by Henry Cole.  Stress which delicately built as the animal twosome moved through the city evaporates, but memories of their experiences linger.  This book stands alone wonderfully but pairing it with the first title is a perfect match.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Henry Cole and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  Henry Cole invites you to follow him on his Facebook account.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images from the beginning of the book.  They have also supplied three activity sheets.

Monday, August 26, 2019

In Appreciation Of Printed Pages

Today hours roll by as books are sorted and added to the collection.  Near the end it's clear, there are many more books than spaces on the shelves.  The process begins anew with decisions on friends needing to find new homes.  By the very definition of friend, readers find themselves bonding with distinct titles based on understanding found through words on the pages.  An appreciation for the work of an author and an illustrator develops.  How many times have you said you love a book?

Affection for a book knows no boundaries.  There is no discrimination based on anything to deter a fondness shared by many.  Each individual has memories of books stored in their hearts (or on their bookshelves) for a lifetime, some are classics and others are contemporary.  A new collaboration by a highly respected team, their first since The Quiet Place (Farrar Straus Giroux) in 2012, is set to be released on August 27, 2019.  This Book of Mine (Farrar Straus Giroux) written by Sarah Stewart with pictures by her husband, David Small, champions and cheers for books and the reading they inspire.

I take this book . . .

When you take a book, read it and read it and then read it again, it becomes a trusted companion.  It does not judge but illuminates.  It flings doors wide open with encouragement.

As babies, a book satisfies a hunger, figuratively and literally.  As we grow, it's there when needed in the dark of night.  It inspires artistic endeavors.  We allow it to gladly consume our full attention.

When we select to possess a book, we can find ourselves within those pages.  Through exploration in books, discoveries necessary for our souls and our minds are made, triggering our imaginations and thirst for knowledge.  All these riches are our reward for as long as we breathe.

There is a soothing rhythm to the words written by Sarah Stewart.  She begins and ends the narrative referencing a book as a friend.  Between these two thoughts are rhyming sentences and phrases.  These connect to our actions as infants, young children, and adults indulging in the bliss books can bring.  In her words there is equality regardless of age.  Here is a passage.

To think about what I
just saw---
then close the book
and try to draw.

The hues of purple seen on the open and matching dust jacket and book case elevate the calm found in the text.  (I always link purple to royalty which is appropriate when discussing the importance of books.) This is also the first time we see a contrasting color used in the books read by the people featured.  Illustrator David Small does this throughout the book, alternating between shades of green, orange, bright yellow, light blue, red, very light purple, golden yellow, darker blue, pale golden yellow and pink.  To the left, on the back, the tail of a cat, its back to us, rests in the gutter of an open book, marking a place.  A mug on the right is next to the book and cat.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a delicate pattern in green and purple; a blend of hexagons and stars within them.  On the right of the opening endpapers is a book plate reading:

This book belongs to

with a book beneath it.  This book appears later in the interior.

The cat is showcased again on the double-page picture for the title page.  It is resting on top of a stack of books.  Each page turn reveals a series of double-page images displaying a diverse group of people in age, race or ethnicity, and occupations, hobbies or passionate pursuits. Each one is sincerely and contentedly engaged in reading or energized by the act of reading a book.  David Small's signature lines enhance the pleasing and calm pacing.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations takes place in an empty elegant theater.  The room is darkened except for a single lamp shining in the center of the stage.  Around the darkened room we can see rows of cushioned seating on two levels.  Curtains are drawn back on box seating on both levels.  A large chandelier hangs from the ceiling.  On the stage standing in the light is a woman dressed for work.  She is holding a yellow book shouting aloud the words to the empty room.  At her feet are a bucket, mop and cleaning spray bottle.

This title, This Book of Mine written by Sarah Stewart with pictures by David Small, is indeed a tribute to books and reading but it is more.  It's an opportunity to speak with others about favorite books, old and new.  It's an opportunity to share where our favorite reading spots are.  It's a chance to connect with other readers and invite others to join the community of book lovers.  I highly recommend this book for your professional and personal collections.

To read more about David Small (and Sarah Stewart, too) and their other work, please follow the link attached to David's name.  At the publisher's website you can view several interior images.  Many of my favorite ones are shown.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Writing Her Dream Into Reality

Writing so others can read it is an act of faith.  It takes courage to shape something from nothing and then send it out into the world.  Unleashing your imagination to fashion a cast of characters, in a specific setting and have them act and react within a set of circumstances, is daunting but exciting.  You need to be fearless when gathering facts through research to present to readers.  Releasing your words, whether it's a phrase on social media or a novel for publication, is following a path in pursuit of your passion.

In 1950 an author published her first of more than forty books.  Today at 103 years old this woman's name is attached to titles of many of the most beloved books read by generations of readers. Just Like Beverly: A Biography of Beverly Cleary (Little Bigfoot, an imprint of Sasquatch Books, August 13, 2019) written by Vicki Conrad with illustrations by David Hohn allows readers to follow the life of this remarkable woman from childhood to her initial successes as an author.

On a farm near Yamhill, Oregon, lived a girl named Beverly Bunn.

As an only child her best friends were animals on the farm.  Beverly only had two books and other children in Yamhill needed books, too, so her mother asked for donations for a small library in town.  At first only adult books arrived but her mother persevered, and finally children's books came from the State Library in Oregon.

At six years old Beverly and her parents moved to Portland, Oregon.  This opened a whole new world of friends for her.  Hours were spent roller skating up and down sidewalks, walking around on stilts made from coffee cans and indulging in make-believe.  Although excited about the new school year as a first-grade student, her teacher, her struggles with reading and becoming ill with smallpox were major setbacks.

Thankfully, not having to repeat first grade and acquiring a compassionate second-grade teacher, Beverly's spirits were renewed.  A box of old books in a basement discovered by her mother unlocked the door of longing inside of Beverly.  As a now-avid reader, she began to write, entering contests and winning.  By the time she was in seventh grade her writing was worthy of being read aloud in front of her fellow classmates.

When she attended college in California, she met Clarence Cleary at a dance.  (Two years later they would be married.)  After college graduation, Beverly returned to Washington alone to complete a library science degree.  Her first position as a librarian again reinforced the idea of writing books for children about children; especially funny stories.  So. with her first paycheck, she bought a typewriter.  This typewriter, after her marriage to Clarence, would be the vehicle for writing her first book about a boy and his dog, Ribsy.  Henry Huggins was born, and a new talent entered the world of children's literature. 

As you read the words penned by debut author Vicki Conrad, you find yourself drawn to Beverly Cleary as an individual.  You identify with her childhood struggles, and you relish the warmth and support of her parents.  You feel her struggles initially in the classroom and cheer her future successes.  Vicki Conrad, by the incidents portrayed in this book, has completed meticulous research.  Her use of specific examples binds us to the life and work of Beverly Cleary.  Here is a passage.

Beverly read a few pages. Then she read a few more pages.  And 
a few more.  Before she knew it, the whole afternoon was gone.

At last, Beverly understood the magic of books.  The children in
The Dutch Twins were just like her.  They were funny and had
adventures.  She started the next book right away.  For the first 
time ever, her mother put off bedtime.

What's not to love about Beverly Cleary standing in front of the boy and his dog who would roam the pages of her first publication.  The row of houses is reminiscent of the homes on the street where she played and lived with her new friends in Portland, Oregon.  It's also where her character Henry Huggins lives.  Having Beverly holding books signifies her love of books as a librarian and children's author.  The use of hues of primary colors is wonderful.

To the left, on the back, Beverly is featured doing three different dance steps in a studio.  Her mother enrolled her in ballet classes in Portland, Oregon.  On the opening endpapers, illustrator David Hohn, showcases the farm, barn, windmill, home and other out buildings in Yamhill.  It is done in muted colors with a vast sky and a field of new corn growing in the foreground in front of a fence.  On the closing endpapers is another vast pale yellow/green sky with a row of houses along a street.  Will readers notice a familiar home?

On the title page we see the bottom portion of young Beverly sitting on a branch in an apple tree.  Half-eaten apples are strewn on the grass below.  Throughout the book illustrator David Hohn uses double -page pictures, single-page illustrations and groups of smaller images on a single page to elevate and complement the narrative.  They are fully animated.

For special effects when Beverly is imagining something these appear above her among golden tones.  Sometimes the point of view is as if we are watching an incident unfold from above Beverly.  One poignant example is when her first-grade teacher places her alone in the coatroom.  Beverly sat on the floor and cried.  (You wish you could run right into that image and console her.)

One of my many favorite pictures is on a single page.  Beverly is standing outside her classroom in the doorway.  There is a bit of light around her. She received a free book for writing a review for the Oregon Journal.  They published her review and her picture which is shown in the newspapers held up by several of her classmates.  Others are pointing at her with pride.  (It's a huge moment for a girl who was placed in the lowest reading group in first grade.)

This book, Just Like Beverly: A Biography of Beverly Cleary written by Vicki Conrad with illustrations by David Hohn, is an excellent nonfiction picture book biography.  At the close of the book is an extended author's note titled How Beverly Bloomed.  In these six pages we learn even more about this amazing woman and her work. Following this is a two-page Timeline from 1916 to 2016.  You will want to have this in your personal and professional collections for author studies, for inspiring and aspiring writers and for learning about the woman who created many wonderful stories.

Vicki Conrad has an account on Twitter.  To learn more about David Hohn and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  David Hohn has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. David Hohn is interviewed at Brightly. At Sasquatch Books you can view the first seven pages along with the title page.  The cover was revealed at A Fuse #8 Production by Elizabeth Bird, Collection Development Manager at Evanston Public Library system.

Please visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the title selected this week by participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Need To Know

There comes a time in every person's life when their most-used phrase consists of a single word.  It is used frequently during a question and answer conversation.  Sometimes it's used repeatedly, perhaps because the ones saying it know how irritating it can be to some people.  Other times this three-letter word helps to satisfy a mind full of never-ending curiosity.  It's an inquisitiveness which will serve them well over the course of their lives.  It's a search to be informed, understand and become whole.

This single word is why.  It's used with the appropriate punctuation as the title of a new picture book by two-time Caldecott Honor winner (First the Egg and Green) and two-time Geisel Honor winner (First the Egg and One Boy), Laura Vaccaro Seeger.  Why? (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, August 13, 2019) explores chats between a patient bear and a need-to-know rabbit, revealing the depth of their friendship.

asked the rabbit

"Because flowers need water
to grow," said the bear.

From watching the bear with his watering can to sitting on a hill with the bear at nighttime, the rabbit cannot stop asking one question after another question.  During daylight, after finding out why the bear had a telescope on the hill, rabbit needs to know about the bear's over consumption of jugs of honey.  Can you guess why?

Everywhere the bear goes, the rabbit follows, keeping up a constant conversation.  The rabbit even wonders about the bear's inability to follow him down his own hole to his home.  The rabbit's struggle to maintain his grip on a branch and a subsequent fall prompt two more inquiries and replies.

As the seasons shift the bear and the rabbit watch and ponder the flight of geese in their familiar formation.  From colorful leaves to falling snow, the rabbit seeks answers.  When a dead robin is discovered in the snow by the rabbit, the bear admits to sometimes not having the knowledge to respond.

The snow continues to coat the ground, becoming deeper and deeper.  The bear turns to go, but the rabbit asks him to stay.  Now it's the bear's turn to say:


The rabbit's words are guaranteed to elicit a collective sigh from all readers and listeners.

When I think of Laura Vaccaro Seeger, I think of her as a storyteller for our souls. She is a master of words and language, choosing them with care to convey exactly what we all need.  In this narrative we comprehend the curiosity of the rabbit but also value the capacity of the bear for kindness through their give and take dialogue.  When it switches with the bear asking the one-word question, the purity of both their hearts are revealed.

The illustrations in this title are rendered using watercolor.  When you open the dust jacket the bear's body extends over the spine to the back, creating an entire scene.  The layered colors in the sky, grass, and the bear's and the rabbit's bodies invite you to reach out and touch them.  This setting on the dust jacket, all of them throughout the book, emanate warmth and gentleness.

Beneath the jacket on the smooth, soft dark teal book case, the bear and the rabbit are embossed on the front. They are seated on a small hill next to and facing each other.  A lighter teal covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Laura Vaccaro Seeger begins her visual story on the title page.  The rabbit is hopping after the bear that is carrying a watering can.

Each page turn displays a luminous two-page picture with the exception of two pages.  These two pages have smaller images to accentuate the pacing, leading to bear's statement.   When Laura Vaccaro Seeger shifts her perspective, we stand in awe at the portrayal or want to leap into the closeness depicted in the illustration.  Is it me or do I see a tiny, tiny symbol of love in one picture?

The body postures on the bear and the rabbit as well as their facial expressions endear them to us.  These help to make us a part of their conversations.  This is why when seeing the concluding image of the story, which Laura Vaccaro Seeger paints on the verso page, readers will want to hug this book.

One of my many, many favorite visuals is a double-page picture.  The rabbit is tumbling from the branch he was holding after losing his grip on a windy day.  On a sky-blue background with wispy clouds, thicker in the corners, along the sides and along the top and bottom, he is shown three times, left to right.  First, he is facing left, on the left, like he is hopping in air.  Then, on the right, all his limbs are spread with his mouth wide open as he asks:


Nearing the right-hand corner, he is still on his back, but he is trying to slow his drop.  (Bear catches him on the next page.)

Why? written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger is a book to cherish for its insightful presentation of friendship, for the exuberant spirit of inquiry and the huge capability for compassion exhibited by her characters.  It will find a place in all readers' souls.  It would be interesting to read this first without bear's replies to see what children's predictions might be based on the wonderful illustrations.   You could also have discussions on other why? circumstances.  I highly recommend you have a copy of this in your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Laura Vaccaro Seeger and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Laura Vaccaro Seeger has an account on Facebook and Twitter.   There is a five question Q & A at The Horn Book with Laura Vaccaro Seeger in December 2018.  Laura Vaccaro Seeger visits author Tara Lazar's Writing For Kids (While Raising Them to talk about her process and this book.  This book and Laura Vaccaro Seeger are highlighted at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  You will love seeing the artistic process.  At a publisher's website you can view the title page.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Learning And Laughter And Schools

Even seasoned students, teachers and parents will attest to feeling partly excited and partly anxious about the first day of school in any given year.  For those gals and guys attending for the first time, every emotion is super-charged.  They are going from the familiar to the unknown.  This might not only be their first day at school, but they might be living in a completely new community with no chance of seeing any friends.

Upon their arrival we welcome all of them equally.  We create a classroom community of mutual respect, compassion and support.  We learn to laugh together with abandon for this is the song which soothes souls.  Two recent book releases are fine, fine selections in creating an atmosphere of mutual joy and boosting creativity.  The first, The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! (Disney Hyperion, July 2, 2019) written and illustrated by Mo Willems brings back a character guaranteed to elevate the merriment of everyone.  This bird knows how to connect with every reader.


Pigeon frantically calls out to readers because he knows once the words of the title are spoken, he's doomed to go to school.  He simply does not understand why he has to go to school.  He's certain he can't be taught anything new.  He challenges readers to test his knowledge skills. Um . . .

He reminds anyone who will listen he is not a morning person.  He longs to be too young to go to school.  He is worried about not liking school at ALL!  He's working himself into a major panic when he wonders if the teacher will even like pigeons.

Now he's dramatically tense about learning more than he's ever had to know.  Will his brain be able to retain it all?  What will happen if he learns too much?

True to form, Pigeon finally gets to the truth of all his anxiety.  It's the newness of it all.  Every single thing bothering him comes pouring out.  He then presents a solution to these stressors.  He demands there be a place to practice before having to go to school.  As he lists the attributes of this place, one thing become abundantly clear.  He's just described school.  When his next question is answered by the appearance of a vehicle, nothing is going to stop this bird from going to school.

Without a doubt Mo Willems is a master of comic pacing; his page turns and punctuation are perfection.  He also has the inside scoop on the commonality in the hearts of his audience.  He begins with words a lot of students express; completely engaging us with Pigeon's perspective and personal conversation.

Pigeon's list of excuses is particularly hilarious because at one time or another, we've uttered them or heard them spoken.  The exaggerated theatrics and roller coaster emotional line of thinking has us hooked on the narrative until the over-the-top witty conclusion.  Here is a passage.

I wish
I was 
a little 

A little-itty-bitty
baby-waybie pigeon!

Just as he did with his 2004 Caldecott Honor winning introduction to this bird, Don't Let the Pigeon Drove the Bus! and the five companion titles, Mo Willems sets the stage with the title in a speech bubble on the front of the book case and Pigeon, with his facial expression and body posture, starts the story visually.  To the left, on the back, Pigeon peeks from the left side stating:

I already know how to spel!

On the opening endpapers are nine empty school desks on a pale yellow background.  Each of the chairs for the desks are a different color.  An assortment of birds including Duckling and Pigeon fill those desks on the closing endpapers.  Pigeon appears to be raising his wing to speak.

Larger than life, a panic-stricken Pigeon is flapping his wings, in a close-up to readers, on the verso and title pages.  Throughout the narrative the background colors on full-page or double-page pictures alternate between shades of blue, green, brown, orange, pink, purple and gray.  Portions of the text are hand-lettered by Mo Willems.

To accentuate an emotion Pigeon increases and decreases in size.  He is very small on the page when we hear him say he is scared.  As the speed of his statements become faster and more vital, the images are grouped in eight panels.  There are two illustrations without words, but we have no doubt about what the Pigeon is feeling.

One of my many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  Pigeon is lamenting the fact there is a lot to learn.  On a light brown background, he is seated.  He is learning back in a dramatic pose.  His mouth is open with his tongue out and his eyes are rolled for effect.

The laughter factor is high in this new bird-tastic episode, The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! written and illustrated by Mo Willems.  As readers giggle and grin listening to Pigeon, they know they have a friend who is expressing exactly what many of them are feeling.  Make sure you include this wonderful title in your read aloud choices as well as giving it a place in your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Mo Willems and his other work, please follow the links attached to his name to access his website and blog. Mo Willems/Pigeon has an account on Twitter. The Pigeon has a website, here.  You'll love the video with children talking in response to the Pigeon about going to school. At the publisher's website is a series of activity sheets.  The cover reveal and post for this title is at Publishers Weekly.  An article about this book appears in the Wall Street Journal.

The second book is a companion title to two previous inventive publications, If I Built a Car and If I Built a House.  If I Built a School (Dial Books For Young Readers, August 13, 2019) written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen takes imagining the ideal space for learning to new heights.  Teachers, gals and guys will flock to this school 365 days a year and adults will want to start their education all over again.

Jack, on the playground, said to Miss Jane,
This school is OK, but it's pitifully plain.

If Jack were the designer everything would change.  As he and Miss Jane explore HIS school they are greeted by a passel of puppies.  Large animals found in a zoo like an elephant, camel, giraffe, zebra, panda and antelope are part of the welcoming crew.  Seated in a shuttle, a glass tube looping around and around takes them to a class with a push of a numerical button.

The classrooms are perched like flowers on stalks with ceilings that open to let in the sun.  Miss Jane is asked to go to the front of her place; writing with a stylus her words appear as if written on an invisible board.  Students are seated at hover desks, looking like carnival bumper cars.  (Is this fun or what?)

Visiting the library is an entirely new adventure with each and every book bending reality.  Opening them leads to whatever is inside popping to the outside.  Off to the gym, readers, Miss Jane and Jack go, with a skydiving wind tunnel plus other amazing opportunities to enjoy.  If you're hungry, lunch is quite a treat with a special robot chef named Pete.  Whatever delicious meal you order, he delivers.

As if everything has not been utterly splendid thus far, recess on this playground raises the bar.  Can you see the zip lines or the three-story high slide?  Or how about taking some horses for a ride?  In the afternoon art, music or science is definitely focused on the future.  Normal school buses are a thing of the past with field trips literally out of this world.  Jack's School is sensational.

As soon as Jack says:

It's nothing at all like the school I have planned,

you know author Chris Van Dusen is going to have his protagonist revealing how his brilliant brain can construct a space everyone, especially students, will adore.  For his four-to-eight-line, playful, poetic and first-person narrative, every two lines rhyme, creating expectations in readers and listeners alike.  We find ourselves in tune with the cadence as one revelation after another unfolds, until Jack brings us full circle speaking what we all know to be true about learning.  Here is a passage.

It's off to the gym, and this place is so cool!
Around it, please note my perimeter pool.
The pool's a deep oval that everyone likes---
You race underwater on submarine bikes!
Up there is my trampoline basketball court.
It's partly a bounce house and partly a sport. . . .

The bright, partly pastel and partly primary, colors shown on the matching and open dust jacket and book case, are a signature choice used by illustrator Chris Van Dusen.  His details have a retro style to them, even though they propose futuristic designs through his main character.  By the expressions and body language on Miss Jane, Jack and his pooch pal, and the visible classrooms, our anticipation grows.

To the left, on the back, the background is divided by a line reaching from the upper, left-hand corner to the lower, right-hand corner.  On the right is the light teal hue and on the left is the pale yellow.  In the center is Jack's dog sitting up on a stack of books, one paw lifted and balancing an apple on his nose.  A pencil is between his ears.

On the opening and closing endpapers readers are in for an architectural spectacle in green and white.  On the first set are twelve possible school plans including but certainly not limited to a moon school, a school that walks to you, a treehouse school or a fantastic underwater school.  Commentary is written in Jack's handwriting.  On the back is My School by Jack drawn in all its fabulous glory with loads of labels.

These illustrations rendered

with gouache on cold press illustration board

span single pages with text on the opposite page or two pages with text blended into the image.  Sometimes we are given a panoramic view of an area and other times we are close to the action.  Readers will be stopping at every page turn to note the details; one of the pooch pals only has two legs and has wheels harnessed to his back, there is a robot dog, there are trees growing inside the school, the teacher's desk has an aquarium in it and all the students' desks have lamps on them.

One of my many favorite pictures takes place in the library.  Sky with puffy clouds can be seen through the ceiling and along the sides.  Book-filled shelves are lined up on the far left and we can see more shelving on the right along a wall of windows.  Closer to us is Jack seated at a table.  On the left, his canine companion has his paws up on the table looking at what popped out of Jack's open book.  His book is Jack and the Beanstalk.  A giant stalk extends from the book on the left to the top of the right-hand side with fairytale Jack astride the beanstalk.  Miss Jane is astonished.  Another student's open book, which is this book, shows a wondrous mode of travel shooting upward.

Students, teachers and parents will be eager to attend this institution of education built by Jack in If I Built a School written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.  You can be sure readers will be ready to design their own special kind of school inspired by the words and illustrations of this author/illustrator and his one-of-a-kind character, Jack.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Chris Van Dusen and his other work, please visit his website and blog by following the links attached to his name.  Chris Van Dusen does have an account on Twitter but it appears he is more active on his Instagram account.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.  You'll find this interview with Chris Van Dusen at Art Of The Picture Book several years ago very interesting.  Chris Van Dusen writes a post at the Nerdy Book Club to describe how this book evolved.

You might want to add Bunny's Book Club Goes To School,  TrumanThe King of Kindergarten, Butterflies On The First Day of School, Mae's First Day Of School, All Are Welcome,  The Day You BeginWe Don't Eat Our Classmates, Super Saurus Saves Kindergarten, or Second Grade Holdout and First Grade Dropout to your selections.   

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Wrapped In Memories Of Love

When we as adults look back on our childhoods, our grandparents, if we are fortunate to have them in our lives, are usually a steadfast foundation upon which our lives blossom with positivity.  Their experiences give them a unique wisdom and an immense capacity for compassion.  Days spent with them are gems to store in the treasure chests of our hearts.

Grandmothers have a special strength on the inside and on the outside.  In My Grandma and Me (Candlewick Press, August 13, 2019) author Mina Javaherbin writes of the devoted and lasting relationship between her and her grandmother.  It is a bond fashioned by a grandmother who believes in the potential of her granddaughter.  It is a bond built by a generous heart.

WHEN I WAS GROWING UP IN IRAN, my grandma lived with us.

Wherever her grandmother went and whatever her grandmother did, Mina was there at her side. Each day their lives were entwined.  If her grandma said something, Mina agreed with her.

When Mina's grandma prayed at dawn, Mina was up with her.  As her grandmother knelt, Mina rested on her back.  When the older woman rose, she did it carefully so Mina would not fall.

When her namaz was completed, the twosome waited for the delivery of bread brought daily by a boy.  Loaves were stacked like a small tower on the back of his bike.  To avoid going to the street, they lowered baskets so the bread could be placed inside.  Bread was taken to Annette, Mina's best friend, who lived next door.

As the girls played the grandmothers chatted.  They were best friends, too.  The grandmothers knitted blankets given to Mina's grandma's mosque and Annette's grandmother's church.  (In a beautiful description of the two elders' heads bent near each as they worked, Mina describes one as silver-haired and the other covered by her favorite chador.)

Mina's grandma sewed all her chadors.  Mina played beneath the fabric-draped table soaring into imaginary adventures.  When she was old enough Mina fasted with her grandma during Ramadan.  (Her recollections of one particular night will strike a chord in all hearts.)  A whispered secret shared by Mina and Annette speaks to the atmosphere of affection in which both girls were raised.

Each time you read this book (And believe me, you'll be reading it multiple times.) the cherished relationship between this girl and her grandmother, as written by Mina Javaherbin, will fill your soul with its heartwarming joy.  Each detail of their daily lives is one more layer of endearments building toward the book's final paragraph.  These remembered ordinary incidents become extraordinary because they are the very definition of love's purest form.  Here is a passage.

Or tying her chador around my neck so I could fly
from the moon to planets.  I was a super-astro-explorer!
My grandma was always waiting for me back at the
base camp with cookies.  We ate together while I told
her about my space adventures.

The open and matching dust jacket and book case full of delicate, intricate elements portrays the richness of the lives of Mina and her grandma and the country in which they lived.  The cascade of stars represents their imaginative travels and the stellar nature of their connection.  To the left, on the back, an exquisite border along the top and bottom extends to the flap edge and is also used on the front flap.  (This is the same pattern on the border of Grandma's prayer rug.)  In the space between the borders is a small drawing of two birds; one older and the other younger.  Beneath this image are the words:

When I was growing up
in Iran, my grandma
lived with us.  I followed
her everywhere.

On the opening and closing endpapers a pale gold and cream pattern in loose hexagons features points and stars. (This design appears in another illustration as a rug on the floor in the kitchen of Mina's home.)  Dainty, stylized flowers become a border along the bottom of the title page.  A tree blossoms with the same flowers.  This motif is shown in the back on the dedication and publication page in reverse.

Each picture, rendered in mixed media, spans two pages or a full page.  The muted colors allude to the deep fondness expressed by Mina and her grandma.  They also represent a sense of serenity and security.  In some of the pictures illustrator Lindsey Yankey places items in different points of view with portions of them crossing the gutter to touch the elegant framing for the text.  The fine lines employed by Lindsey Yankey are stunning.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is of Grandma praying at dawn.  In the background from left to right are two different wall colorings, a pale golden-brown shifting to white.  Mina's grandmother is bowed from the left to two-thirds of the right half.  She is wearing her favorite chador, white with tiny purple flowers.  The rug upon which she prays is a beautiful floral pattern in reds, browns, gray, blue and green.  Grandma is facing out at the moment, perhaps to make sure Mina is safe.  Mina is resting on her grandma's back.  She is wearing light blue shoes with a bunny on the top.  Her dress is patterned in shades of green on white.

Everyone will be able to identify with the love presented on the pages of My Grandma and Me written by Mina Javaherbin with illustrations by Lindsey Yankey.  Through this book we can not only appreciate the relationship between Mina and her grandma, but reflect on our relationships with our grandmothers or an beloved elder woman in our lives.  This book is lovelier than my words can say.  I highly recommend it for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Mina Javaherbin and Lindsey Yankey, please access their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Mina Javaherbin has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Lindsey Yankey has an account on Facebook.  At Candlewick Press and Penguin Random House you can view interior illustrations.  Candlewick Press has a press release with an author's note.  I know you will enjoy reading a post by Mina Javaherbin at the Nerdy Book Club.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Depart To Start

The largest one can weigh more than forty poundsIt usually does not travel farther than from top to bottom.  This is why they are endemic to the Republic of Seychelles.  Dispersed in the air like dust, the smallest is believed to be 1/35,000,000th of an ounce in weight.  Millions of them are produced from a single source.  From the first a coco de mer tree will flourish.  From the second a special specie of orchid will bloom.

Seeds seem to house miracles when they transform into any one of the vast assortment of plants.  Seeds Move! (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, March 19, 2019) written and illustrated by Robin Page presents all the actions associated with the distribution of seeds.  Nature has supplied clever modes of transportation carefully considering a range of habitats.

A tiny seed can one day become a flower, a fruit, or even a giant tree.

For a seed to perform its task, it requires water, air and the right temperature.  For many of them light is also a necessity.  Unlike the giant seeds of the coco de mer tree, the majority must leave the plant which produces them.

Sixteen action verbs describe the movements of sixteen seeds.  Some are designed to attach themselves to a moving body of an animal.  Others burst forth from their pods through touch or timing.  The large coconut drifts on water until it successfully finds new land so a palm tree can grow.

Some seeds trick insects, through taste, into taking them underground so they can germinate.  Frequently animals will gather seeds to eat but store them by hiding them in the dirt.  They can forget where all of them are placed, leaving the seed to create a new plant.  Did you know the durian fruit is a delectable treat to orangutans?  The seeds, though, are not tasty; so the orangutan spits them out.

The pods are already forming on the milkweed plants.  Soon those seeds will act like parachutes spreading where the breezes take them.  With berries on wild bushes handy for wild animals, seeds are carried inside them until they are released in their feces.  Readers are encouraged to plant their own seeds; specifically following the growth of a watermelon seed.  What was the last seed you planted in your garden?

As you read through the methods used by seeds to move, you'll find yourself thinking of other explanatory verbs to represent their actions.  This is an excellent technique by author Robin Page.  Simple sentences of only three words make an initial statement.  These are followed by information about the seed and the plant from which it comes. This, too, invites readers to explore more about the plant and where it is found.  Here is a sentence and the following details.

A seed sinks.
A lotus seed drops from its
pod and sinks to the bottom
of a pond.  There it will nestle
into the mud and sprout. 

Digitally rendered, all the illustrations, beginning with the open and matching dust jacket and book case, are realistically detailed in layers reminiscent of collage. On the front of the jacket and case six of the sixteen movements are presented through an engaging design and layout with the natural colors more noticeable on the white background.  To the left, on the back, we are brought very close to a spiny mouse who gathers and scatters seeds.  This is an interior image, too.

The opening and closing endpapers are a rich spring green. A combination of two other images are pictured on the title page.  For the introductory paragraphs, the blue used for the text on the jacket, case and title page becomes the canvas, supplying a striking contrast to the floating milkweed seeds.

Subsequent images are either double-page pictures or full-page pictures.  Once a portion of one image carries to the opposite page.  For the most part, Robin Page brings readers close to the seeds, enlarging them as they move.  Ants are as big as an adult hand.  A featured dung beetle is barely shy of the larger specie (6.7 inches) and sixty-two times as big as the smallest one. (National Geographic Kids)  Sometimes two perspectives will be showcased in a single image.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Along the top half of the image a sandy beach stretches left to right.  Above this is a row of palm trees and other island vegetation.  White clouds are feathered on the blue sky.  In the ocean on the left a coconut drifts close to readers.  We can see a small stem and leaves have sprouted.  On the right a sea turtle is at rest under the surface, smaller in contrast to the seed.

When you think of this book, Seeds Move! written and illustrated by Robin Page, you know as a read aloud younger audiences will be asking to have it read again.  This would make for a wonderful creative drama reading with motions attached to the verbs.  You could also have children brainstorm other verbs attached to the movement of seeds.  For further research have children look up the plants and their locations, perhaps placing pins on a map to designate their homes.  I would pair this title with A seed is the start (National Geographic, February 13, 2018) written by Melissa Stewart.    You will certainly want a copy of this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Robin Page and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  At School Library Journal, The Classroom Bookshelf, there is a fabulous post featuring this book and multiple lessons and resources.  (It's author mentions motions and creative drama also.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Of Butterflies And Borders

Early this spring along the road taken by my canine companion and me on our daily walks were the shells of milkweed pods among the dried grasses and leaves.  For the most part, the seeds were still snuggled inside. For a gal with the goal of having a field of milkweed for the monarch butterflies, this discovery was pure gold.

The numbers of these marvelous, brightly colored creatures, in recent years, is decreasing due to climate change and loss of habitat.  We, as humans, are at the root of their problems, but if we do everything possible, we can reverse their possible extinction.   Planting milkweed seeds is one of several solutions.

Anyone of any age can become a champion for these butterflies. Senorita Mariposa (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, August 6, 2019) written by Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G) with illustrations by Marcos Almada Rivero, through lively text in both English and Spanish and Spanish and English and vibrant images, follows the miraculous annual migration of monarchs from Canada and the United States to Mexico.  You'll be singing and dancing and clapping and toe-tapping from beginning to end. 

Little butterfly
Pequena mariposa

You just caught my eye
Llamaste mi atencion

A girl playing in a lake notices a monarch butterfly flying above her.  Three other children, singing as one plays a guitar, see the monarch butterfly among the bees.  A chorus rings out in tribute to the beauty and power of Senorita Mariposa.  This monarch butterfly is loved.

Soon she joins other monarch butterflies leaving the north to travel south.  She will be missed as she flies at least sixty miles per day.  Wherever she goes, her presence is noted.  Wherever she goes, all are amazed at her yearly accomplishment.

This butterfly and her companions traverse over mountains and deserts until they happily reach their destination.  Once there, their arrival is welcomed.  Children greet them with praise and joy following their flight to their resting place.

Millions and millions of monarch butterflies gather to create fluttering orange boughs on a special specie of evergreen.  They will reside there during the winter months as if in celebration.  The chorus rings out again in honor and great affection.

As you read the words penned by Ben Gundersheimer you find yourself captured by the rhythm of the rhyming words in English.  When you sing the English followed by the Spanish or sing the Spanish followed by the English, the musicality of the words in both languages wraps around you.  The chorus, sung first in Spanish, rhymes for the first four lines and ends with

Te quiero a ti
I love you

Careful readers will discover facts woven into the narrative.  Here is a two-line passage.

Sixty miles or more a day
Por mas de sesenta millas al dia

We will see you on your way
Te veremos en tu camino

Against a blue sky with swirling clouds readers are introduced to Senorita Mariposa.  She is joined by other monarchs, one positioned on a letter in the title.  The primary authentic hues with orange, black, and white are a cheerful request to meet this butterfly.  The tip of her right wing continues on the other side of the spine, to the left, on the back.

There the shades of the blue sky shift a bit to include greens.  We are now in a forest setting.  A bear gazes up at monarch butterflies and bees flying over milkweed.  Senorita Mariposa is nearly nose to nose with the bear.  A grasshopper watches from a branch above them all.

On the book case leaves in varying hues of green supply a background.  On the front Senorita Mariposa has opened her wings completely, gazing at readers with a slight turn of her head.  On the back two happy monarch caterpillars crawl among the leaves.

A pale lavender covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Digitally rendered the images created by Marcos Almada Rivero are a beautiful blend of bold color and soft washes.  Readers will find themselves pausing at each page turn to enjoy all the items in each scene, animals, domestic and wild and lush flora in panoramic views or close-ups with Senorita Mariposa.

The representation of children from a variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds engaged together in different activities is wonderful to see.  They are blissfully happy, as they should be.  Even the expressions on the animals are thoughtful and content. Readers will also be able to speculate where and when Senorita Mariposa is in her flight by items in the pictures. 

One of my many favorite illustrations spanning two pages, as they all do, is when the monarch butterflies and Senorita Mariposa arrive in Mexico.  Two children, an older brother and his younger sister, run along with the butterflies as they travel to reach the evergreens.  The little girl is carrying a white kite with a monarch butterfly on it.  Their dog, tongue hanging from its mouth in happiness, is running with them.  The children and the butterflies are moving from left to right and upward.  On the right side branches of the fir trees frame the text as butterflies move among them.  We are watching this joyous occasion as if we are one of the monarch butterflies.

For an exuberant read aloud destined to have listeners participating through song or dance or both or as an introduction to a theme revolving around monarch butterflies, butterflies or insects, Senorita Mariposa written by Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G) with illustrations by Marcos Almada Rivero is an excellent choice.  At the conclusion of this delightful title in an author's note readers are given more information about monarch butterflies and asked to help protect them.  Readers are directed to a website.  You'll want a copy of this title for your personal and professional collections.  It's sure to be a favorite.

To learn more about Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G) and Marcos Almada Rivero and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Here is a link to the Mariposa Project page at Mister G's website.  Ben Gundersheimer maintains accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  Marcos Almada Rivero has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.  For additional research on monarch butterflies, readers might want to consult this page with multiple links provided by Michigan's Department of National Resources.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Fenway y Hattie Cover Reveal---Habla Espanol?

Regardless of the twists and turns and ups and downs and uncertainty in the human realm, there is one unwavering truth.  From their first breath to their final breath, dogs offer us steadfast, unconditional love. Embracing the world as a total sensory experience, they urge us to do the same with their actions and expressions.  If we would be more like dogs, it would, indeed, be a world worth raising our voices in howls of happiness.

For the past four plus years, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy the friendship of another human, author Victoria J. Coe, who believes, as I do, in the value and power of observing the world from another individual’s perspective.  Her books about an over-the-top, energetic Jack Russell terrier have led me to comment on more than one occasion about her astute observations and research. It is no easy task to speak the language of our canine companions, but Victoria does it with such skill, I’ve come to believe she is part canine.

On July 16, 2015 it was a privilege to reveal the cover of the first book in the series, Fenway and Hattie.  We chatted about writing, this first book, dogs and the irresistible Jack Russell terrier, Fenway.  Upon reading Fenway and Hattie, I was paws-itively captivated from beginning to end.  And this initial opinion, expressed in my blog post, has not wavered with repeated readings.  For each of the three subsequent titles, Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang, Fenway and Hattie Up to New Tricks and Fenway and Hattie In the Wild we have been able to laugh and learn along with Fenway and his human, Hattie, as they grow to be their best selves.

Given my total admiration for this series, the selection of Fenway and Hattie as the 2017 Global Read Aloud choice and for One School, One Book, you can imagine my joy upon hearing Fenway and Hattie will soon be available in Spanish!  Fenway y Hattie, the Spanish edition, will make the story of a dog and his human and their daily lives, after moving from the city to suburbia, accesibile to an even larger audience.  I can already hear the laughter, and growing compassion, of a new group of readers, as they follow this story told entirely from Fenway’s point of view. I am happy to have Victoria here today to answer some questions before we reveal the cover of this new Spanish edition.

Victoria, congratulations! How excited are you that the Fenway and Hattie Spanish edition will soon be out in the world?

Oh my goodness, Margie, I am SO excited! Honestly, I had no idea this would happen, and when I found out I could not believe it.

I was heartily encouraged to take Spanish as a second language by my father.  After studying for nine years, in my final class in college, I could listen to lectures in Spanish, take notes in
Spanish and read Spanish, understanding it very well.  Do you speak Spanish yourself?

I do not and I’m impressed that you do! It’ll be such a funny experience when I get to flip through my own book and not understand the writing on the pages. You’ll have to read it to me. ☺

When I first read Fenway and Hattie, I remember telling you that this book was going to be huge. It was chosen for the Scholastic Book Club, then the Global Read Aloud. Now three sequels have come out, it’s a One School, One Book favorite, and soon to be coming out in Spanish! When are you going to start believing me?

You did say that, Margie, and it really is still very hard for me to get my brain around it. Two years later, I can’t believe the Global Read Aloud actually happened, and now every time I visit a One School, One Book school - which I do often - it’s overwhelming to see my little dog in the foyer, on the walls, in the classrooms, library, literally everywhere.

I’ll tell you, teachers are SO energetic and creative. I’m continually blown away by the activities and projects they do while reading the book. And of course, I can’t get enough of the kids. I’m just really thankful that this series has given me so many opportunities to connect with them. Any day I’m at an elementary school is a very good day!

What went into the decision for Penguin Young Readers to publish Fenway y Hattie, and how did that come about? Did you have any input into the translation?

I’m not 100% sure how the decision got made, but I do know there have been a lot of requests, especially from teachers, for a Spanish edition of Fenway and Hattie. There are so many areas in the country where children speak Spanish, so many bilingual classes and schools, and of course so many parents whose first language is Spanish, that teachers are always on the lookout for books in Spanish; especially books that appeal to children of all ages and families, and would make a great read-aloud.

As for how it happened, since I don’t speak Spanish, I wasn’t very involved at all. My editor, Susan Kochan, worked with a professional translator as well as a copyeditor in Spain. I do remember she asked me to clarify something in the last chapter, because as you know, Fenway’s observations can be taken more than one way. It was important to get the context right.

Since the publication of Fenway and Hattie my beloved Xena passed away and you lost Kipper, the inspiration for the first book.  I now have Mulan, an almost three-year-old chocolate labrador retriever. While she exhibits all the canine qualities we love in dogs, she has her own quirks. Would you tell us how you went about introducing the personalities of the other dogs Fenway meets after moving from the city to suburbia?  Did this entail additional research about different dog breeds? Are these dogs based upon dogs you know?

Well, I come up with personalities for the dogs in different ways. First and foremost is my deep belief that every dog is an individual, just as humans are. So while breed is a factor, it’s not the only factor. Mostly I try to remember that readers want to connect with the characters, so I want each dog to be relatable and unique.

Sometimes I like to give a dog a personality that’s totally opposite from how we think of the breed, like Goldie. She’s a golden retriever, but she’s a grump!

I know how much you miss Kipper, but do you have any dog news you would like to share with readers?

Margie, I know you asked this just so we can talk about the new cutie in our family! ☺ And yes, two months ago our son and his girlfriend brought home an adorable and very lively little pup named Teddy Graham. She stole everyone’s hearts immediately.

I’m being nudged by a persistent cold wet nose attached to a head and body constantly being wiggled by a tail.  I think someone, namely my canine companion Mulan, besides me is excited to see this new cover. Here we go!

Fenway y Hattie by Victoria J. Coe releases in paperback on December 31, 2019 from Puffin Books and is available for preorder now.

To learn more about Victoria J. Coe and the other Fenway and Hattie books, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Victoria has accounts on Twitter and Instagram. If you are interested in the One School, One Book program access their website by following a link attached to their name. 

Victoria J. Coe grew up a fan of books, dogs, and the Boston Red Sox. Today she combines these passions as the author of the middle grade series, Fenway and Hattie, told from the perspective of a rambunctious Jack Russell terrier named Fenway. With fellow author Elly Swartz, she also co-hosts the Youtube series BooksintheKitchen. Victoria lives with her family on the outskirts of Boston.