Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Looking Back At A Childhood Adventure

As children we perceive the world through a lens acutely aware of details others might miss but our point of view of life on a larger scale is limited by our resources and experiences.  There have probably been moments in most of our lives when we were unaware of being involved in something destined for the annuals of history.  It is only when we are adults, looking back on the decades of our lives, that we realize with astonishment and a little bit of awe how what was ordinary was built on the extraordinary.

In his most recent book, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World (Roaring Brook Press, May 5, 2019) David Macaulay writes and illustrates about innovations, a lifetime dream fulfilled and one family's emigration to the United States.  The evolution of steam engines and their use in transportation is deftly woven into the work of William Francis Gibbs and the building of the SS United States.  Readers are entranced by accomplishments of multiple individuals, inspired by the perseverance of one man and thrilled to discover how these are tied to David Macaulay and his boyhood.

IN THE SPRING OF 1957, my father was offered a job in America. 

This first sentence in the introduction to four chapters starts a blend of three stories.  David Macaulay, his two siblings, and his mother have left their home having sold most of their possessions, to stay with his grandparents.  They are waiting to leave Great Britain to join his father in the United States.  He tells readers how the months seem endless as he waits to see the Empire State Building but upon reflection the ability to take this trip started centuries ago.

Travel, then, across the Atlantic relied solely on wind which tends to be unpredictable.  Ships had to have another source of power.  It was actually a need of miners which prompted the design and building of

the first continuously operating steam machine

near 1710 by Thomas Newcomen.  From the work of this man, improvements were made.  Boats were successfully traveling using steam engines less than 100 years later.  Materials and shapes of ocean liners were changed to adapt to the use of steam engines; as the engines themselves were constantly altering to work more efficiently with less fuel.  These bigger and better ships were vying for cargo and passengers trying to make the voyage from one side of the Atlantic to the other as fast as possible.  By 1910 there was a formal award known as the Blue Riband which owners of vessels coveted.

As a boy, William Francis Gibbs, attended the launch of Saint Louis with his parents and younger brother in Philadelphia along the Delaware River in 1894.  At eight years old William was entranced by the size of the ship and its abilities.  From that day forward, every moment was dedicated to ships, how they were built and how they could be constructed to perform with greater speed and increased safety.  After college William and his brother, Frederic, began to establish their shipbuilding business.  While World War I and World War II delayed William's plans to create a super liner, their company and reputations grew.  But . . . the lure of the Blue Riband motivated United States Lines to engage the services of the Gibbs brothers.  William Francis Gibbs' dream began to be a reality.

In the spring of 1949 (David Macaulay was not yet three-years-old) construction of the SS United States started in Newport News, Virginia.  The intricate details of all the plans and materials and the timing and precision necessary to complete each portion of the ship was a mind-boggling process.  It was literally like putting a three-dimensional puzzle together.  It was not until June 23, 1951 that the ship was officially christened.  It took another twelve months to complete the interior of the ship.  It's first voyage was on July 3, 1952 as the fastest ship to the east and later back home to the west.  It garnered the Blue Riband.

On September 25, 1957 David Macaulay, his mother, sister and brother boarded the SS United States at Southampton, United Kingdom.  Their room, B-105, consisted of double bunk beds and a single porthole.  David looked through that porthole every morning for an initial look at the Empire State Building, the tallest building (then) in the world.  Its picture was in his copy of the Encyclopedia of Science for Boys and Girls, one of three books he was allowed to bring.  His first impression of the building and its presence years later is unforgettable to him to this day.

The manner in which David Macaulay weaves his personal story into the story of William Francis Gibb's career as a builder of ships and the development of steam engines is masterful, simply masterful.  His voice as narrator, taking us back and forth in time, gives us an intimate and human perspective as well as a technical insight into steam engines and ship construction.  His conversational text is supplemented with labels, numbered captions and paragraphs accompanying his illustrations.  He offers us a story but more in-depth information, too.  For this reason, this volume will find a much larger audience.  Here is a passage and a single caption.

By 1949 an army of draftsmen had produced hundreds of plans documenting everything from structural steelwork and rivet placement to galley layouts and paint colors.  Between the bidding process to decide which shipyard would actually build the ship and then construction itself, the number of plans would mushroom into thousands of blueprints.  To help locate each piece of information on all the drawings, the length of the ship had been divided like a loaf of bread into 365 slices called frames.  During construction, frame numbers would be painted on the walls and columns so the workers would know exactly where they were.

The ship had three massive anchors, one housed in the point of the bow, and two on either side.  The anchors were raised and lowered by winches (called windlasses) on the Upper Deck and powered by machinery on the Main Deck below.  Their chains were stored in a chain locker that went all the way down to D Deck.

When you look at the open and matching dust jacket and book case of this title, the size of the SS United States on the front, with David Macaulay and his family standing next to it, is massive.  It gives readers the feeling of something larger than they imagine being revealed.  To the left, on the back, in a more limited color palette, we see a family from the past standing on a shore, a trunk next to them, looking out at the ocean.  Above them in the clouds or in the past are ships moving with only wind in their sails.

The opening and closing endpapers are a rich royal blue.  For the beginning of the introduction David Macaulay features himself reading his copy of Encyclopedia of Science for Boys and Girls lying on his stomach.  With a page turn the introduction continues giving us a bird's eye view of his hometown spanning two pages.  An enlarged map of the trip from Bolton to London to Southampton and to France before crossing the Atlantic is on the title page.

Each turn of page reveals the wonders of David Macaulay's skill as an exceptional illustrator.  His elaborate details, historical accurateness, and keen sense of humor are always present.  These images are to be enjoyed and appreciated.

In many of them his artist's hand is shown, steadying an element.  Sometimes a part of a picture will cross the gutter.  Perspectives are mixed with adept ingenuity.  His cross-sections are exquisite.  Every time you read this book; you will notice something more in the pictures.  His gatefold beginning on page 86 with a daytime view of the SS United States and concluding on page 95 with a nighttime view of the SS United States will have you gasping.  On pages 87 and 94 are eight close-up special spaces on the ship.  The six interior pages are dedicated to the entire length of the ship as a cross-section full of tiny items and labeled properly.  You could look at this for hours.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is for an entirely different image.  It spans two pages.  It is a limited color palette in the morning of the SS United States' arrival in New York with the Macaulay family on board.  The gray canvas (sky) has a hint of pink near the horizon.  The ship (on the left) is moving past a rocky shore seen along the bottom of the picture.  The silhouette of a man wearing a hat and topcoat is between the ship and the shore.  He stands watching the ship.  His vehicle is close to readers, the front of the car covering the entire right side and crossing the gutter.  The car is a Cadillac.  The man is William Francis Gibbs.  He always watched his ship's arrival.

You do not need to be an aficionado of ships, steam engines or the history of either to become totally fascinated with Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World written and illustrated by David Macaulay.  You will find yourself caught up in the story of their evolution because of the personal connection to William Francis Gibbs and beloved author-illustrator David Macaulay.  We truly are all connected.  At the close of the book is an afterword, timeline, acknowledgments and selected readings accompanied by numerous photographs.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about David Macaulay and his other considerable work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  David Macaulay has an account on Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages.   I am including these videos for you to enjoy.

UPDATE:  Discovered this May 7, 2019 Q & A with David Macaulay at Publishers Weekly.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to enjoy the selections this week by other participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like . . . 2019 #2

Parents, caregivers and educators have sure knowledge of the passion and persistence children employ when they are in pursuit of a plan.  Once they get an idea in their minds, it usually takes an epic force to impede any progress.  Their desire for success is so strong, that if at first they don't succeed, they will most definitely try again.

Defeat is not an option.  Brainstorming a new scheme to obtain a desired goal is the only course of action.  The Great Santa Stakeout (Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., September 3, 2019) written by Betsy Bird with illustrations by Dan Santat is a light-hearted, humorous look at a boy who lives and dreams 24/7 all things Santa Claus. This year he is on a very specific quest.

Freddy Melcher was Santa's #1 Fan.

Every celebration throughout the year was an opportunity to dress up as Santa spreading Christmas cheer.  In his immense collection of Santa memorabilia which did include Santa underwear, Freddy Melcher lacked one thing, one very important thing.  He didn't have a picture with Santa after he came down the chimney.  He must have this photograph.  Nothing else would suffice to fill this gap in his gathered items.

In order to accomplish this mission, Freddy had to use every ounce of stealth and cunning he possessed.  This would be no easy task because Santa knows everything.  There were four steps to Freddy's objective.  He plotted and practiced all year long.

On Christmas Eve, no one knew about the four portions of his project he had in place.  What Freddy did not anticipate was failing with the final step.  He fell asleep.


Freddy was horrified by what he saw outside his window.  He could not get through the front door fast enough.  In the pile of what was left of step one of his master scheme was a note.  A range of emotions pulsed through Freddy's heart and mind.  The last line of the story sums up exactly what Freddy (and any other child chasing a dream) feels.  Hooray for those of indomitable spirit!

With a skill born of years working with children and children's literature, master librarian Betsy Bird pens a tale in tribute of children and their joyful spirit in pursing an adventure.  After the first statement, subsequent sentences offer support but it's her descriptions which elevate every portion of this story.  Freddy just doesn't want a picture with Santa, he wants one

with Santa, fresh out of the chimney.

Known phrases of this holiday are adeptly woven into the narrative.  Only someone with the heart of a child could conjure up the four steps of Freddy's undertaking. Reader's will sense the gentle rhythm with the use of alliteration and the technique of storytelling three supplied when Freddy is trying to reach a conclusion.  Here is a passage.

Freddy was vigilant.  It was almost midnight, and Santa
should be here any second, yeah . . . any . . . any . . .

Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z Z . . .

When you unfold the dust jacket, the happiness of a snow-covered Christmas scene unfolds before your eyes.  Placing the decorated homes at night in the background provides the intended focus to shift to Freddy, in his Santa clothes, gazing with wonder into the Santa snow globe.  Readers will be entranced by the silhouette of Santa and his reindeer crossing the full moon.  (I really like the corresponding circle of the snow globe and the moon.) Illustrator artist Dan Santat already reveals his attention to detail in this setting with the word NOEL on one of the roofs and candy canes along the peak, glittering strings of lights, Santa on another roof and a smiling snowman in another yard.  Spot varnish on the lights gives the appearance of twinkling when the jacket is moved in the light.  Santa, his sleigh and reindeer and his magical dust along with the snow globe and text are varnished.  The title text is in red foil.

The book case is covered in green plaid wrapping paper.  Rows of Santa faces provide an additional pattern.  Crossed wide red ribbon is shown on the front and back.

On the opening and closing endpapers readers are given a close-up glimpse of OPERATION SANTA SELFIE-01 and OPERATION SANTA SELFIE-02 (next year) blueprints on Freddy's desk with a desk lamp providing illumination.  His drawings are labeled with the steps and speech bubbles.  In the lower, right-hand corner as if it's genuine, the caption reads


Dan Santat's pictorial vision begins on the title page with a double-page image of Freddy, in his Santa clothing, working at his desk.  A Santa mug holds his drawing supplies.  The only light comes from the lamp.  The next double-page picture crosses the gutter into the verso and dedication pages on the left and we read the first sentence on the right.  It's a close-up of a grinning Freddy in his Santa attire.

Each illustration rendered

with ink, watercolor, and Adobe Photoshop

spans two pages or a full page to enhance the pacing.  Readers will pause at every page turn to notice the Santa elements in each scene, especially in Freddy's bedroom with his collection.  They will burst out laughing at the bus stop when Freddy appears in full Santa dress with a beard and green backpack on Talk Like a Pirate Day.  All the other students are dressed like a captain and crew straight off a pirate ship.  Without a doubt it's the expressions on the faces of Freddy and the other characters which heighten the emotional impact of the story.  Dan Santat uses light and shadow and shifts in perspective to great effect.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations, in addition to those previously mentioned, is a two-page picture.  It is Christmas Eve.  The only light in the setting comes from the open doorway to Freddy's bedroom.  His smiling parents are standing there looking at him.  In the darkness to the left and right of the doorway we can faintly see portions of Freddy's collection of Santa items.  In the front and larger than life is Freddy lying with his back to his parents and facing readers.  His eyes are wide open.  There is a faint smile on his face.  He is wearing green snowflake pajamas and a red snowflake blanket covers him.  This image is overflowing with anticipation . . . and something else, too.

You'll want to add The Great Santa Stakeout written by Betsy Bird with illustrations by Dan Santat to your professional and personal collections as fast as possible.  It's a hilarious look at the love of a child for Santa.  You'll find yourself cheering for Freddy Melcher and his efforts.  This is pure Christmas merriment.

To discover more about Betsy Bird and Dan Santat and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access the respective websites.  Betsy Bird has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Dan Santat has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  The cover reveal and interview and book trailer premiere are found on Betsy Bird's blog at School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production.  Interior images and activities can be found at the publisher's website.

Monday, November 25, 2019

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like . . . 2019

Children are most excellent observers.  No detail escapes their attention.  Most educators can attest to the fact their students notice if they get a haircut, are wearing different glasses, switch out their style of shoes or if they alter their everyday watch or jewelry.  Even the smallest change in the classroom or library setting will prompt a question.  That's another wonderful quality of children; their curiosity is rarely satisfied.

They want answers when something out of the ordinary happens.  Santa's Secret (Sleeping Bear Press, August 15, 2019) written by Denise Brennan-Nelson with illustrations by Deborah Melmon addresses a suspicious situation a little girl sees.  She is determined to discover the truth.

My parents had planned an adventure one day.
We loaded the car and went on our way.

From their home to the center of the city, the girl, her parents and grandmother sing Christmas carols.  (The family dog looks happy, too.)  Perched on her father's shoulders, the child has a perfect view of the festive parade.  Soon a red sleigh, carrying Santa, passes them.  The crowd roars with delight.

As the family walks along the city streets, the girl notices another Santa.  He is not the same Santa as she saw in the sleigh.  After announcing this out loud, her mother tells her Santa needs helpers to complete all his work.  Who is the real Santa?  Her grandmother tells her it's Santa's secret.  Only he knows who the real Santa is.  If Santa knows, this little girl wants to know, too.

Later, approaching Santa in his chair, the girl, armed with a pad of paper, pencil and questions, is ready to reveal the truth.  She asks question after question from simply wanting his name to the reindeer's favorite food and then to who helps him decide what presents to give. Does he ever take a vacation?  When she asks him if he is the real Santa, he answers without words.

When this Santa asks her a question, she complies and then goes with her family to a cozy coffee spot.  Sipping on her hot chocolate, she ponders her notes.  She then sees a startling sight.  Without hesitation, she moves to the quiet corner.  Before she can utter more than an

Excuse me

spoken words have her suddenly turning toward her mother.  When she looks again, her surprise turns to satisfaction.  Sometimes being a secret keeper is more important than being a secret solver.

With her opening sentences author Denise Brennan-Nelson promptly brings the joy, the secrecy and the magic of the season to readers.  This story in rhyme, each two lines conclude with rhyming words, creates an inviting cadence. A lively mix of text and conversation keeps us eagerly turning the pages.  Readers find themselves as anxious as the little girl to solve the puzzle.  Not only, through the narrative, do we come to understand the character, but we know her family to be supportive, loving and wise.  Here is a passage.

I had questions for Santa.  I would see what he knew---
About reindeer and elves and the rest of the crew.

I got out my notebook.  I would crack this case wide!
From a good detective, the truth cannot hide.

The wintry background in pale teal, with swirling snowflakes above the snowy ground, spreads from the left, back, across the spine, to the right, the front, on the matching dust jacket and book case.  The smiling faces of the three Santa Clauses, their clothing, glasses and body postures radiate happiness.  By placing the girl, full of curiosity, with her pencil and notepad full of questions, in the foreground, our curiosity is piqued also.  What exactly is Santa's secret?

To the left, on the back, a portion of the interior text, is placed beneath the child and her grandmother.  Her grandmother is whispering to her.  This makes us more excited to uncover the truth.

The opening and closing endpapers are as white as new-fallen snow.  With a page turn we see the family dog, tail wagging, sniffing the notebook and nearby pencil.  On the title page, the girl is seated on Santa's lap.  She and Santa are looking at each other with questioning eyes.

Illustrator Deborah Melmon has chosen a full-color palette with vibrant hues exuding warmth and cheer.  She alternates her image sizes from double-page pictures to full-page illustrations.  For emphasis on pacing several smaller visuals are grouped together on single pages or as part of a double-page image.  Perspectives are similarly shifted to accentuate emotions or moods in a moment.

One of my many favorite illustrations is the first double-page picture.  On the left from a few homes among rolling hills in the country, the road stretches into a bustling city.  With stones walls on either side of the road, the family's bright red car travels.  A Christmas wreath hangs on the front.  Everyone inside the car is singing, wearing their winter clothing.  The right side shows the city buildings festooned in greenery and lights.  Large evergreens are glowing with lights and shiny ornaments.  A large happy snowman watches everything and everyone from a rooftop.  When you look at this page (and all the following pages), it's like holding happiness in your hands.

For inquisitive readers with a thirst for the truth, Santa's Secret written by Denise Brennan-Nelson with illustrations by Deborah Melmon is a scrumptious holiday delight.  The playful, rhythmic words with the vivid, merry images will fully engage readers.  You'll want to add this title to your holiday collections to keep the spirit of Santa Claus strong in readers' hearts.

To discover more about Denise Brennan-Nelson and Deborah Melmon and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Denise Brennan-Nelson has an account on Twitter.  Deborah Melmon has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  To view interior pages, visit the publisher's website.

Friday, November 22, 2019

In Search Of The Ideal

Completion of a mental check list is essential.  The contentment found in a long walk by a canine companion is met.  A favorite beverage is close at hand.  Received as a gift, a cozy blanket is ready to offer comfort.  Now the last but the most important item must be found.

It's the foundation upon which joy is discovered; a joy enveloping readers and listeners alike.  The Perfect Seat (Disney Hyperion, November 12, 2019) written by Minh Le with illustrations by Gus Gordon seeks to ensure the final objective is achieved.  It's no easy task for this parent and child but together they find the absolute best place.

Can you read to me?

Those five words in that order, no matter the age of the person requesting or the person hearing the request, are five of the most cherished words in any language.  They are asking for an affectionate connection through story.  This child and father are leaving a book shop with a new book.  They are looking for the perfect seat.

Inside a nearby coffee shop the sofa is entirely too large and a fire hydrant outside is much too little.  A space between two buildings has seen better days and a chair in a store window looks ill-designed for its purpose.  As they travel around the neighborhood opposite extremes seem more prevalent than the excellence they desire.

The seated duo is either too close or too far apart as they journey to the park.  There possibilities, natural and fashioned by human hands, present no welcome outcome.  When it looks as if the father and child have found an agreeable space, a tumble suggests otherwise.

The dejected and water-soaked dad plops down against a tree trunk certain they can't find the perfect seat.  With the infinite wisdom children spring on adults when we need it the most, a leap supplies a solution.  Sometimes with the right perspective, the answer has been there from the beginning.

As a story time aficionado, Minh Le writes with a beautiful blend of short two word statements and a little bit of dialogue.  The comparisons are a welcome invitation into the father and child's dilemma.  These gently lead us to the conclusion we are all hoping they recognize.  What do you think this comparison refers to?  Where do you think they are?

Too Funky.
Too Fancy.

It's only when the dust jacket is open you can determine what the generous sweep of white represents.  (Although it may vary with each viewer.)  The scene continues to the left (back) flap but stops on the right (front) flap to allow space for the introduction.  Careful readers will get their first hint on the jacket of the mediums employed by Gus Gordon for this book.  Can you see the print in the father's antlers and in the clouds?  The title text, father, his child and two insects flying on the back are varnished.

On the book case the sky blue presents the largest area of color.  Along the bottom are white puffy clouds and other thinner clouds above them.  A dotted line begins near the upper left-hand corner of the back and waves over the spine to the center of the front.  The line is made by the red-covered book, case and spine on top, with the pages open and flying like a bird.

On the opening and closing endpapers in a limited color palette, shades of gray with a hint of blue, greens, black and yellow is a map of places the father and child visit looking for the perfect seat.  It's here we get to see some indication of the humor Gus Gordon uses in his images in this book.  The streets are named

street to nowhere interesting and
over here street.

Prior to the title page the pictorial interpretation and narrative begins as the twosome stands in front of


With a page turn the conversation continues and becomes the title as they walk down the street.  The illustrations throughout are rendered

using watercolors, pencils, crayon, and collage.

For each picture, portions are chosen to be bolder and brighter in color with other elements done as drawings with collaged items completing the scene.  Most of the illustrations are on single pages employing large areas of white space for splendid effect.  For emphasis and pacing three visuals are shown on two pages.  The details in the lines and facial expressions are fascinating and at times hilarious.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a full-page picture.  It is for the words

Too short.

All we can see of the father is from his chest down on the left standing with his hands (hooves) by his side.  His child, holding the red book in both hands (hooves) is smiling.  He is looking at a tablecloth covered table on the grass.  On top of the table is a teapot and two cups and saucers.  One mouse is seated at the table.  The other mouse is standing up and offering its chair to the moose parent and child.

You can't help smiling when you read The Perfect Seat written by Minh Le with illustrations by Gus Gordon.  Everything about it, the words and artwork, is charming and brimming with truth.  It's ideal like the seat finally found.  It's a story time, bedtime and any time treasure.  I can already imagine the conversations about readers' and listeners' favorite places to read aloud.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Minh Le and Gus Gordon and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Minh Le has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Gus Gordon has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Collective Memories

You can read them over the course of days or in hours.  You may find yourself whispering, "Oh my goodness."  You may stop at a point and softly gasp.  You may begin to cry.  You may feel a large grin begin to spread across your face.  This is the effect carefully chosen words by authors and articulately created art by illustrators has on readers.

As I hold I Remember: Poems And Pictures Of Heritage (Lee & Low Books Inc., October 22, 2019) edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins in my hands quietly turning the pages, I am emotionally invested and captivated.  It is a slim volume, but when opened, a world is released and surrounds you.  This stirring compilation of fifteen poems by fourteen authors and illustrations by sixteen artists is certain to encourage readers to reflect on their own lives.  In his short introduction, the late poet, Lee Bennett Hopkins, ends with these five words, staggered and each on their own line:


We are carried by words and illustrations to a special Mother's Day when a mother with a compassionate heart understands the value of a gift, to a conversation between boys where one clearly does not comprehend the word American and the strength found when a man looks back on his boyhood, recalling the multitude of descriptive details in his daily life with his family.  We find comfort in the connection between a visiting grandmother and her granddaughter working together on their embroidery.  Miles and days of separation are closed by a deep affection.

We learn of a sofer and his writing still impacting those who read his work fashioned with

quill and ink on parchment.

A young girl finally meets her Auntie Anne whose feats are legendary through story.  There will be more stories but now the truth will be told and respectively listened to by those present.  A poem on PEACE as an individual being stirs up contemplative musings.

A river becomes a center for remembering.  A highway becomes the means for expressing a very real fear.  A single question gives us a history of answers.  A recipe, and the meal it makes, always takes you home.

Reminiscing brings us into poignant childhood thoughts of captured specific moments.  A realistic portrait of life on a reservation speaks of truth and resilience.  A woman ends her poem with a question and we fully realize the answer.  In the final poem we step into the authentic fears of a fifteen-year-old but are bolstered, as she is, by the foundation of rock, then, now and tomorrow, that is family.

The poets (in order of appearance) Janet Wong, Kwame Alexander, Margarita Engle, Douglas Florian, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jorge Tetl Argueta, Marilyn Nelson, Nick Bruel, G. Neri, Jane Yolen, Joseph Bruchac, Carole Boston Weatherford and Guadalupe Garcia McCall have placed their souls on these pages.  Their voices, employing a variety of poetic forms, speak with clarity.  Their shared memories are bridges from their stories to our stories.

The illustrators (in order of appearance) Sean Qualls (dust jacket and book case), Simone Shin, Insoo Kim, Michele Wood, Paula Barragan, Neil Waldman, Jeanne Rorex Bridges, Sawsan Chalabi, Rafael Lopez, R. Gregory Christie, Janine Macbeth, Charlotte Riley-Webb, Julie Downing, David Kanietakeron Fadden, Daniel Minter and Juliet Menendez like the writers have placed the essence of themselves and their art on these pages.  Their techniques and mediums are a reflection of their personal expression but also complement and elevate the poems.  It's like walking through a gallery, each one ready to come to life.

In most of my posts I will feature passages from the text and a favorite illustration.  It's impossible with this title.  Each poem and each image sing a tune, separate, but also a part of a symphony, a symphony that is us.

I Remember: Poems And Pictures Of Heritage edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins is a remarkable collection of words and art.  The authors address poetry and its meaning prior to their poems.  The illustrators speak about their art beneath their pictures.  In tiny print at the bottom of a page after a poem are words readers might not know with their pronunciation and a definition.  At the close of the book, ten pages are dedicated to small biographical sketches of each author and illustrator showing childhood and adult pictures.  From this work readers will be energized to write their own poetry or make their own art with respect to their personal stories.   I highly recommend this book for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about the authors and illustrators, please follow the links embedded in their names to access their websites or websites containing more information about them.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages.

UPDATE:  I believe you will enjoy this interview at author Cynthia Leitich Smith's website, Cynsations with the editor of this anthology, Louise May.   

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Freedom To Fly

In 2015 at the University of Worcester, Worcester, United Kingdom, the illustration department founded the International Centre for the Picture Book in Society. It's purpose

provides a focus with the making and study of the picture book in its broadest sense (children's books, comics, hand-made books, zines and educational books, e-book, graphic novel).  Its interests extend to engage with 'society' in its broadest terms by promoting multi-culturalism, inclusivity of all minorities and socially disenfranchised people.

An invitation in 2017 was sent to illustrators around the world asking them to send in a postcard with a picture of a bird on it.

The bird could be representative of a real bird from your country, a fictitious bird from your culture or your own fantasy bird.

The illustrators were also encouraged to include words or a message reflecting the theme of migrations.  This exhibit was displayed in Bratislava, Slovakia from September 7, 2017 to October 29, 2017.

More than three hundred illustrators from five continents in countries shown on this map responded.  Of those respondents fifty-three were selected from the initial display to become a part of Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders: The Power of Human Migration and the Way That Walls and Bans Are No Match for Bravery and Hope (Candlewick Studio, an imprint of Candlewick Press, October 8, 2019) edited by the International Centre for the Picture Book in Society.  This book is an exploration of and a journey into the human soul.  It's an expression of honoring all people's endeavors to be free to live their fullest lives.

Prior to the introduction by Shaun Tan the work of five illustrators is shown and noted.  The remaining artists' work is divided into chapters titled Departures, Long Journey, Arrivals and Hope For The Future.  Of those featured people and their postcards you will find work of illustrators you know and those new to you.  You will find yourself pausing on every page turn to study the postcards, the stamps and messages.  The messages are written again on a page opposite the image.

In one an origami bird is folded and taking flight on a partial blue paper ripped to shown an older post card underneath. (Shaun Tan, Australia)  From Jon Klassen, Canada/USA, a single sparrow, enlarged, is shown.   Another artist, Rhian Wyn Harrison, UK, places an egret on a map with the words no egrets.  Her message reads:

In the end
we only regret
the chances we
didn't take.
It begins with
a single step . . .

Yuval Zommer, UK, places three birds in his signature style among clouds and rain flying over mountains.  He says:

Beyond the clouds, rain and mountains . . .

A gorgeous bullfinch, resting on a flower's stem, looks up, a bit startled.  Marija Prelog, Slovenia, states:

Birds also wonder . . .

Several illustrators, Patricia Gonzalez Palacios, Chile, Leila Ajiri, Germany and Maria Leon, Spain, (to name a few) include words of cheer asking the travelers to be safe.  Their birds wear a hat and carry a suitcase, appear as a flying fish with other flying fish showcased on the first's wings and as a lone swallow in blue on blue with spot and outline color of white.  Nicola Davies, UK, places an albatross on a swirl of green and brown shapes like tiles.  Her words read:

The albatross holds in its eye the storm
And, over more miles than lie between us and the moon,
The small green island of its home.

For Arrivals birds appear in brush strokes of primary colors (Natalia Gurovich, Chile/Mexico), in a limited color palette of reds and teal (Judith Drews, Germany) or as kites flown by children (Myungae Lee, South Korea).  A poem penned by P. J. Lynch, Ireland, speaks of a wish many hold in their hearts.  His lone bird soars over an ocean and along a rock strewn shore.

Opposite the fourth and final section a brightly colored parrot flies among words by Mies van Hout, Netherlands.  Her words express a desire for all children everywhere.  Isol, Argentina, shows a child sleeping and riding on top of a bird with words on the image life is movement.  A large red bird, walking among a darkened landscape with stars and a crescent moon is beneath several bird cages with opened doors on a purple night sky.  Maral Sassouni, USA, has written:

One day it will be better.
Stay strong.
You are welcome.

Jane Ray, UK, closes the book with an Emily Dickinson poem opposite her large multicolored bird.  The poem defines hope.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is under the Long Journey chapter heading.  It is by Satoko Watanabe, Japan.  Opposite the message is a picture of a bear facing the gutter.  The bear has a rather large nose perfect for a tiny blue bird with yellow wings to rest upon it.  This image is soft with fine lines and delicate details.

This book, Migrations: Open Hearts, Open Borders: The Power of Human Migration and the Way That Walls and Bans Are No Match for Bravery and Hope, edited by the International Centre for the Picture Book in Society is, in a word, beautiful.  It will promote countless discussions for readers of all ages.  You look at each image and wonder about every choice made by the artists.  This is an excellent choice for studying illustrative techniques and illustrators, countries around the world, and migrations by all forms of life, but especially those taken by people everywhere.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to have children draw their own birds and send them off to children in another community near them or far away?  I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections.

I have attempted to link pertinent websites to the names of the illustrators mentioned in this post.  I hope you find their other work as fascinating as I have.  Here is a link to the publisher's website and Penguin Random House so you can view multiple interior images. Here are two more links about the exhibit here and here.  Here is an article in The Guardian about the Migrations project including images.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Wishing For Winter

It has been more than six years.  Actually, two thousand four hundred forty-three days have passed.  When a time period such as this feels more like yesterday than the actual number, it's a sign of enduring goodness.  For readers of books in a series, this means each book, regardless of the time between publication dates, is a treasure that stays in their collective hearts and minds.

In 2012 beloved author Kevin Henkes gave readers the first book in a series about a lively, charming little girl mouse.  Penny And Her Song uplifts readers' hearts and leaves them humming a tune.  In Penny And Her Doll, an important decision is made.  Followers of the series discover in the third book, Penny And Her Marble, how this child grows and expands those personality traits we find irresistible.  On October 29, 2019 Penny And Her Sled (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers) cheerfully entered the children's literature realm.

Chapter 1

It was winter,
but there was no snow yet.

If there was snow, Penny could use her new red sled.  She moved from room to room looking out the windows hoping for snow.  She looked skyward to and from school.  Penny asked her parents when it would snow.  Soon was their reply.  She asked her tiny baby siblings and her doll Rose if they wanted snow.  Penny wanted snow.  It did not snow.

Penny tried wearing winter clothing and sitting on her sled inside to encourage the snow to fall.  Weeks passed with no snow.  Penny did other winter activities with her parents.  Against the wall in her bedroom, she believed the sled looked sad.  It still did not snow.

Without snow, Penny decided to use her new red sled for other things. (Penny is a resourceful, imaginative child.)  Her sled became a bridge, a house and a bed.  The bed idea did not work so well; it was lonely without Rose sleeping with her.  Over time Penny went from playing with the sled every day to putting it back in the corner of her bedroom, completely untouched.

Eventually Mother Nature started to signal the end of winter.  Penny was no longer interested in waiting for winter's white mantle.  After a conversation with her mother, it was decided she would wait for another kind of snow.  Outside her mother showed her where to look for this other type of snow.  Penny watched and waited and watched and waited until one day her mother's words came true.  Before she could show her mother this new arrival, she did something which made her mother laugh.  You will laugh, too.

Each time a book penned by Kevin Henkes is read, readers can't help but marvel at his masterful skill in word choices, sentence structures and realistic conversations between his characters.  He knows exactly what his intended audience needs.  Frequently Kevin Henkes will repeat a series of words in more than one sentence to supply a gentle cadence.  Dialogue is inserted to provide a more participatory and intimate experience for readers.

Kevin Henkes is mindful of his readers' abilities to read increasing.  In this book there are five chapters not only covering days but weeks.  We are a part of Penny's world from one season into the next season.  Here is a passage.

That night Penny dreamed
it was snowing.
The snowflakes in her dream
were as big and fat
as marshmallows.
Penny ate the snowflakes
with a fork.

When she woke up
there was no snow.
Penny hugged Rose.

"I do not think
it will ever snow," she said.

The use of pastel colors, first seen on the open and matching dust jacket and book case, draws readers immediately into the delightful world of Penny, her parents, her siblings and her doll, Rose.  The floral border is present in all the books.  Each border is a reflection of the interior color palette and the hue used around the introductory square image of Penny on the front of the jacket and case. 

To the left, on the back, on the pale sky-blue canvas is a smaller picture bordered by a fine black line.  On white, we see Penny's mittens and scarf, as if placed in a spot ready to use.  This is a hint of a special moment.

A darker rose shade covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Between the text on the title page is an illustration of Penny hugging her new red sled.  Her eyes are closed in contentment as they are on the front of the jacket and case.  The mittens and scarf are shown again beneath the dedication page opposite the verso.

The chapter headings are colored in the same dark rose shade as the endpapers.  To indicate the passage of time Penny's outfits are varied.  She is always wearing her signature headband.  Kevin Henkes shifts his image sizes; two to a page as rectangles, a square on a single page, two to a page as loosely framed ovals or other shapes, a single image with large scalloped edges or a rectangle on a single page.  To show several activities in one day, three rectangular pictures are placed on a page.  This technique is employed again with an increased number of smaller illustrations on one page.

The facial expressions, body postures and clothing worn by all the characters further connect us to this memorable little girl mouse and her family.  Careful readers will notice all the delicate details, the wallpaper in the family's home, the pattern on her bedspread and the pictures she has drawn and hung on her bedroom wall.  Penny is wishing for snow in everything she does.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is a square framed by a fine, black line on a single page.  Penny is wearing her polka-dot nightgown and her purple headband.  She is cuddling Rose, placing her over her right shoulder.  She is standing in front of her bedroom window looking out at the starry sky, pretending the stars are snowflakes.  There is a golden glow added to the curtains, perhaps from a small lamp in her room.

If Penny And Her Sled written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes is the first title you've read in this series, you'll not only read this one repeatedly but the three precious, previous books as well.  You can't help but want to cuddle these characters as much as Penny cuddles her doll Rose.  As an early reader, this book and the other titles are an excellent choice.  I highly recommend this newest title.

To discover more about Kevin Henkes and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  There are numerous activities and resources for his books on his website.  At the publisher's website you can view several interior pages including the page with one of my favorite illustrations.

Friday, November 15, 2019

In Motion

Most mornings now a chorus of chick-a-dee-dee-dee greets us as we walk.  Groups of these feathered friends gather in the trees and shrubs, quickly moving from place to place, sometimes stopping a foot or so from us if we are still.  Occasionally blue jays will send out a squawk.  Most other birds have left for warmer climates.  New animals ventured through the yard last night, evidenced by their tracks in the snow.  A large deer strolled along the perimeter.  From the woods paw prints formed a path down the driveway; a type of cat or small canine. Animals are always on the move.

Many marvelous creatures travel more than a few miles during any given day.  They make astonishing annual treks.  Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys (Bloomsbury Children's Books, August 6, 2019) written by Mike Unwin with illustrations by Jenni Desmond chronicles these trips taken in order to survive and for the continuation of their species.

Imagine being a baby swallow in Europe in the autumn.  Just a few weeks ago you left your nest for the first time.  Now, before you are even two months old, you have to fly thousands of miles---all the way to Africa.

In this introduction we learn about the necessity of migratory practices for animals.  These seasonal excursions are not without dangers from predators, geographical physical features and weather as hundreds and thousands of miles are covered.  Page turn by page turn we read and view the paths followed by twenty different groups of Earth's occupants.

A ten-year-old humpback whale, finally an adult, can swim more than fifteen thousand miles per year.  No other animal tops that mileage by swimming.  They move in a line, one behind the other, every year to the inland of Antarctic to breed.  They are the largest penguins in the world.  Another animal moves from the water's edge, inland and south for winter.  Tens of thousands of caribou move as a unit.  Did you know the Arctic tern flies from the North Pole to the South Pole in order to fish for twenty-four hours per day in each summer season?

To see the migration of the monarch butterflies would indeed be like stepping into a fantasy.  Millions move from the north in Canada and North America to Mexico BUT it takes four generations to complete the round trip. (The explanation of the stages is fascinating.)  For years conservationists flew in ultralight aircraft with young whooping cranes to show them the route to migrate in the winter.  It looks like an immense smudge on the water but it's the annual journey in May of millions of pilchards moving north from the southern tip of Africa.

Can you imagine flying and flying and flying over water and not resting on land?  Such is the life of the wandering albatross who searches for food for years before returning to its island birthplace.  On Christmas Island, millions of Christmas Island red crabs carpet the roadways in November as they head to the sea to breed. There is only one bird which travels over the Himalayan mountains.  These bar-headed geese are physically equipped with a unique circulation system.  (This is amazing!)

Great white sharks swim for food across the Indian Ocean six thousand miles.  African elephants walk and walk for water.  Salmon go against a raging current to lay eggs before they die.  The next time you hold a yard stick; imagine it as the wingspan of the straw-colored fruit bat in Africa.  It and millions of others fly for fruit in November.  Like many of other animals named in these pages the final animal usually returns to the place where it was born to lay its eggs and continue the specie, the green sea turtle.  What a sight this must be to see!

Renowned wildlife author Mike Unwin presents captivating factual accounts; taking readers under the sea, through the air and across landscapes.  In conversational paragraphs he acts as an instructor and a guide.  He creates scenarios where we can imagine ourselves next to each animal as they move.  In addition to his lengthier paragraphs several sentences as captions to the illustrations further inform readers.  Here is a passage; two paragraphs of six.

The dancers are a male and a female.  They have nested together for several years, and this dance helps keep them close.  Other cranes are dancing too.  Each pair knows that it's time to build a nest and start to raise a family.  But first they must return to their breeding grounds in the north.

At nearly 5 feet tall, whooping cranes are the tallest birds in North America.  They are also one of the rarest---in 1941 there were only twenty-three left, including two in zoos.  Conservationists have worked hard to protect them and today there are around 400 in the wild.

Readers will be enthralled with the illustrations by Jenni Desmond beginning on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  Her portrait of migrating hummingbirds from flap edge to flap edge is a beautiful blend of background floral elements and a radiate depiction of the tiny birds magnified for readers.  The prominent use of green, red and white is striking.  You want to take wing and fly with them. 

The matching opening and closing endpapers showcase the forest in Mexico as the first few monarch butterflies (three) arrive.  A snowy chilly scene, a two-page image features a single bar-headed goose flying over the Himalayan mountains.  This same scene without a goose provides a space at the end for the publication information and dedications on the left and a barren view on the right.  It gives a very real feeling as to the conditions these birds must endure.

For the contents, introduction and each animal, illustrator Jenni Desmond used

watercolor, acrylic, ink, pencil, and pencil crayon

to create her double-page pictures.  They are eloquent representations in varying points of view.  We are next to the humpback whale and her calf.  We stand near the front of a long line of Emperor penguins stretching back as far as we can see over the vast icy terrain.  We are among the trees in Mexico as thousands and thousands of monarch butterflies move about us.  We see dozens and dozens of globe skimmer dragonflies land on and near two pairs of flip-flops on a sandy beach.  Every delicate detail brings these animals to us as we hold this book in our hands. 

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the spread titled


The text is in four short columns, two to a page at the top.  Beneath the text is a snow-topped mountain range.  A line of evergreens stretches under the range from page edge to page edge.  In front of this is a large body of water, the lower bottom half.  Three separate lines of caribou can be seen.  One is in the far distance, another to the right of the gutter moving to and on the shore and a third is close to readers, caribou swimming and climbing the grassy slope.  Here we can see the foam on the waves as the caribou splash.  Their images are mirrored in the water.  It's easy to place yourself there, watching and listening to the thunderous noises.

You can't help but be inspired by Migration: Incredible Animal Journeys written by Mike Unwin with illustrations by Jenni Desmond.  Informative text elevated by gorgeous illustrations will promote discussions and further research.  At the close of the book are two pages of a world map with two other discussions, Did You Know? and Making A Safer World For Migrants plus a list of the animals by number with corresponding numbers on the map with respect to their routes.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  This title is one of Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of 2019.

If you wish to discover more about Mike Unwin and Jenni Desmond, please follow the links attached to their names to access websites giving you additional details about them and their other work.  Mike Unwin maintains an account on Instagram.  Jenni Desmond has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  You might enjoy visiting Jenni Desmond's blog. Jenni Desmond was recently interviewed at Let's Talk Picture Books.  You'll appreciate the artwork and process images.  At the publisher's website is a teacher's guide for this title.  The UK title looks like this.

To view 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, November 12, 2019

Hound Won't Go Cover Reveal

What we humans may see as an odd habit in our canine companions, they consider a part of their job.  I think. In addition to enjoying television and frequently sleeping on her back with all four legs extended, another quirk Mulan displayed immediately was stopping in the middle of a walk to contemplate the universe.  To see this in a puppy not yet three months old was hilarious and a little bit frustrating. Our daily walks were (still are) filled with more than a few stops.

Her routine now consists of stopping and sitting to scan the area in front of and along the bottom of the hill in front of the house as soon as we walk out the door.  We make it halfway down the slope of the driveway and she stops again. Halfway through the walk, after we turn around to return home, she stops at the top of two hills and looks across the street, head lifted and sniffing the air.  She is either trying to tell me to slow down or there’s something that needs my attention.

For this reason, I am happy to host the cover reveal of Lisa Rogers’ second picture book, Hound Won’t Go. The title and first lines for this book came to her in a flash while walking with her pooch pal one day.  I’ll let Lisa tell you this truthful tail . . . err tale.

It’s a pleasure to have you here today at Librarian’s Quest, Lisa.

I was wondering if you would first share with readers how your dog came to live with you and your family, the breed of your dog, your dog’s name and for how long he’s made his home with you.

We brought Tucker into our home after our beloved Dalmatian, Sparky, died. Sparky was our first dog, our daughter considered him her brother, and we treated him royally. We were crushed. But we could not live without a dog to love. We returned to the rescue where we had adopted Sparky and saw this long-legged, goofy, adorable pup, named Bandit 1 (or Bandit 2, I can’t remember). We thought he was a mix, but the shelter told us he was a Treeing Walker Coonhound--think Giant Beagle. I saw videos of these athletic pups climbing 8-foot fences and thought, uh-oh! That was 12 years ago and it’s been an adventure!

Would you please tell readers the particular habit Tucker has that inspired this book?

Most people try to get their dogs to stop. Not Tucker. From the moment we brought him home, we had trouble getting to go--move forward, that is! We call it the Plop O’Doom because he melts into the ground and, at 90+ pounds,  is unmovable. He wants to go where he wants to go, and we pretty much have learned to hang on for the ride.

Does Tucker have any other interesting characteristics readers might enjoy?

Though we changed it, Bandit was an appropriate name for him. He’s fast and stealthy and can swipe a stuffed animal from beneath a sleeping baby without the baby even waking up. It’s happened. Besides the Plop O’Doom, he varies his walking route every other day. One day, he’ll turn right going down our hill to do a woods walk; the next, he’ll turn left for a neighborhood stroll (also good for napping on strangers’ lawns). But he absolutely, never, under any circumstances, goes for a walk after 4 pm unless we take him by car to a favorite place. I have videos to prove it.

They say that dogs mirror some of the personality traits of their humans.  Is this true with Tucker? Is anyone in your family like him?

Stubborn yet even-tempered: my husband. Focused and smart: our daughter. He’s always planning ahead, like me. And we’re all writers, like him. He diligently chronicled his adventures in his blog, Dreams du Dog, until I took over the laptop to focus on my own writing, though he does steal it now and again.

Where is Tucker’s favorite place to walk?  Where is Tucker’s favorite place to simply hang out or rest?

When we walk in our town, no matter where we start, he brings me first to the bookstore, where he gets treats and lots of attention; next, the dog store, where he always manages to cause a ruckus, such as scattering chicken feet all over or grabbing expensive treats and chomping them in seconds. It’s a fun time. By then I’m ready to pack it in, but he drags me another mile or two, and then he hangs out at a brook where he gets in up to his belly and takes a good long drink. Several minutes’ worth.

Hunting hounds like Tucker (not that he has ever hunted) sleep most of the time and are ready to be up and at ‘em when called. So he curls up on our guest bed, one long ear hanging over the side. Half the time we don’t know where he is because he’s so quiet; the other half he’s outside baying at marauding chipmunks.

Would you give us a hint at the writing style used in this book and how or why you decided on it?

As Tucker and I were walking in a crosswalk, I remembered all the times he has plopped, and I thought: “Uh oh. Hound won’t go.”  It made me laugh. The rhythm matched the pace of our walk. I wrote the text in a simple, straightforward, spare way. Because really, that’s the way it is: Hound won’t go, and that is that. Until...

Where is your favorite place to write?

The best place is in my mind while I’m walking, running, or kayaking on the pond near our home. It feels most organic to me. When I must sit down, my favorite place is outside on our patio with the flowers and hummingbirds. It’s quiet and I can hear my story in my mind.

Did you have any exchanges, written or verbal, with illustrator Meg Ishihara about the cover for Hound Won’t Go?

No, but Meg has created an adorable Hound! It’s so great that she’s captured Tucker’s--I mean Hound’s--personality and sense of fun. He’s mischievous but lovable and has a sweet bond with his owner, and that comes through beautifully in her illustrations.

If you had to pick one single thing about the cover you like the most, what is it?

From the expression that Meg gives Hound, it’s clear that he’s perfectly comfortable where he is and that he has no intention of going anywhere. It’s spot on, and I laugh every time I see it.

Here’s to dogs with minds of their own, who stop for reasons unknown.

Here’s the cover of Hound Won’t Go to be released in April 2020 by Albert Whitman & Co.

I want to thank Lisa Rogers for visiting Librarian’s Quest today to satisfy our curiosity about her new book, her dog Tucker and a little bit about herself.

Lisa Rogers maintains a website, and an account on Twitter.  Her debut picture book, 16 Words: William Carlos Williams & “The Red Wheelbarrow”  (Schwartz & Wade, September 24, 2019) illustrated by Chuck Groenink has received two starred reviews. Illustrator Meg Ishihara has a website, and accounts on Instagram and Pinterest.

Lisa Rogers was inspired to write children’s books through her career as an elementary school librarian. She lives with her family outside of Boston, where Tucker makes them laugh and takes them for long walks every day.