Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Collectively Giving Thanks

Trust me, there is a time in your life, the younger the better, when you wake up each morning grateful to still be breathing with clothes to wear and food to eat in a home with the ability to keep you warm and cool when necessary.   For this writer every day begins with the first of several mile walks with my canine companion.  Today I am grateful for no encounter with the local bear.  Time during the morning is spent connecting with friends on social media, some of whom I have never met.  Yet, I am thankful for knowing them and hold onto the hope of chatting with them one day soon in person.  Hours are dedicated to making Flu-Fighter Cookies for colleagues at work.  It's good news when all the necessary ingredients are located, and they are baked to perfection. 

Winter is here covering nearly everything today in a snowy coat.  Getting to and from work without incident is a cause for rejoicing. An evening spent with an ever-so-patient pup playing and laughing at her antics feeds a work-weary soul.  It is indeed a time to express thanks when your day closes with writing about a book.  In this book, Thanku: Poems Of Gratitude (Millbrook Press, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., September 3, 2019) illustrated by Marlena Myles and edited by Miranda Paul, there is an abundance of words written by talented authors expressing numerous forms of gratitude.  If you seek it, you will find it.

Giving Thanks
In memory of Chief Jake Swamp

Thanksgiving is more
than just one day,
so a Mohawk elder
said to me.
(This is the first stanza in the first poem written by Joseph Bruchac.)

With each page turn (with the exception of the first poem and one other) we are presented with two poems.  Numbering thirty-two, these poems offer thirty-two different formats by thirty-two distinctive authors.  Each of their compositions gives us a fresh way to view our world as a whole or a small part of it.

In this first poem we are reminded every day is a day to give thanks.  We are given a new point-of-view of the sky everyone shares followed by expressions of thanks for the beauty of our avian friends, their flying abilities and songs.  Praises are penned for dinosaurs by future fliers and for the development of species, some not named or counted, over generations.  A math poem brings to life computations featuring compassion.  The true value of zero revealed in a tanka leaves you wondering.

Friends discuss birthdays and parties and hope for having a first one.  Teamwork is praised in a race.  There are all kinds of emergencies, but assistance is shown from a new perspective.  It appears when light and water are in a special alignment.  Roy G. Biv is introduced.  When we least expect them, the smallest words of thanks appear hidden among other words in a found poem.  An arachnid sends out a plea.

Are we ever thankful enough for sleep until we really need it?  Attitude is shown to be the key to gratitude.  We enter a cobbler's realm of waiting shoes.  Not necessarily painless, but scars, as an elder states, are a blessing in disguise.  The worth of passing stories from one generation to the next will leave you deeply moved.  The girl who entered a wonderland and a looking glass has reason to be pleased with her spectacles.  You'll grin at the descriptions of delightful dimples.

Humans with canine companions will knowingly nod in agreement at thankfulness for a puppy.  Sometimes doing the right thing brings gratefulness to both the giver and the receiver.  We love the colorful vistas during autumn but falling leaves have their special appeal.  Who knew a sweatshirt could have a best day ever.  Sometimes, during the best times, we can understand parallels between nature and humans.  The most common object can become a beachcomber's treasure.

Have you ever written words in the sand hoping the message is noticed by someone else?  An ode to dreams speaks invaluable truths.  There will be a moment in a family's history when the first individual will receive a college diploma.  It is important to be persistent in going wherever you need or want to go.  Just keep going.  We are reminded there is more than the expected mediums for painting.  On this day of winter's first big snow, the final poem about a snow-filled day closes with this repetition

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

The thirty-two authors in order of their poems are Joseph Bruchac, Naomi Shihab Nye, Kimberly Blaeser, Sun Yung Shin, Ed DeCaria, Becky Shillington, Padma Venkatraman, Gwendolyn Hooks, Jane Yolen, Janice Scully, Charles Waters, Carole Lindstrom, Sylvia Liu, Carolyn Dee Flores, Sarvinder Naberhaus, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Baptiste Paul, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Patti Richards, Chrystal D. Giles, Margarita Engle, Kenn Nesbitt, JaNay Brown-Wood, Diana Murray, Megan Hoyt, Jamie McGillen, Renee M. LaTulippe, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Traci Sorell, Edna Cabcabin Moran, Charles Ghigna and Liz Garton ScanlonThe poetry formats in order are:  didactic poem, epistle, concrete (shape), sijo, Fib, math poems, tanka, poem for two voices, septercet, hyperbole, quatrain, found poem, Tyburn, onomatopoeia, echo, allegory, tricube, (chant, free verse), (narrative poem, allusion), acrostic, decima mirror, McWhirtle, ode, mask, Shakespearean sonnet, ballad, pantoum, limerick, cinquain, palindrome, metaphor and Etheree.  Each poem penned by each writer, without you being aware, brings you into the essence of what they are saying.  It is a stunning achievement by all thirty-two people.

Like the words of all thirty-two authors, the illustration on the open and matching dust jacket and book case is an eloquent portrait in calming hues of blue and green with the warmth of pastel yellow, pink, peach and purple.  The contrast of the silhouette of the individual blowing on the flower and the text in navy blue is marvelous.  Featuring the names of the authors in those colorful shades of breath is a wonderful design decision.  It pairs beautifully with the words to the left, on the back, written by Joseph Bruchac in the first poem.  The silhouette flows over the spine and continues to the middle of the back.  Another lovely contrast are the flowers in white and navy along the bottom of the front and back and the scattering of seeds on both sides of the spine and within the spine.

A robin-egg's blue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Black text of the names of the authors, the illustrator Marlena Myles, and the editor Miranda Paul as well as silhouettes of clusters of flowers in both lower corners appear on the title page.  These are placed on an array of pale colors like watercolors spreading out and blending together.


in Adobe Photoshop with Texturino

by Marlena Myles the images vary between double-page pictures and full-page pictures.  The adept skill in which two poems are placed on a single double-page illustration and find commonality is wonderful.  Even the full-page visuals, though separate, have connections in the color palettes used.  The pictorial interpretations employed by Marlena Myles enhance every written piece.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the two poems titled College Degree by Traci Sorell and A Graceful Journey by Edna Cabcabin Moran.  At first glance you are focused on the two college graduates, holding their diplomas and garbed in their gowns on the left and a bird's eye view of group of three people in single kayaks paddling on the right.  A more studied look shows their placement on a map of the world with the land masses in shades of gray amid blue, green and a bit of yellow swirls.  This is only one of many excellent artistic choices made by Marlena Myles.

Thanku: Poems Of Gratitude illustrated by Marlena Myles and edited by Miranda Paul is filled with words of wisdom from a diverse group of creative artists.  You could read one or all of them every day and still feel the positive peace they bring as if it's the first time each time.  At the close of the book are several pages dedicated to explanations of the poetic forms and brief biographies of the contributors.  Miranda Paul closes the book with a note to educators and parents about the value of gratitude all year.  She urges people to seek the truth and remain factual in discussing Thanksgiving.  She says: in one of several paragraphs:

Learning and sharing the fuller context of Thanksgiving doesn't mean that we need to stop celebrating entirely.  Many citizens of the hundreds of Indigenous Nations within the United States and Canada give thanks to the Creator not once a year, but every day, for all the gifts of life.  On Thanksgiving, Americans reach out in significant numbers to people in need within their communities.  Might we start there and move forward?  While we cannot change the past, we can acknowledge its consequences and work for peace and unity in the future.

Miranda Paul has included four resources after her note.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

I have attached links to all the authors' names, Marlena Myles' name and Miranda Paul's name which for most take you to their respective websites so you can learn more about them and their work. For a few I selected the best source I could find online other than a website.  At the publisher's website are interior images and excerpts which are breathtaking.  Marlena Myles is showcased at Kid Lit 411.  Marlena Myles and Miranda Paul are interviewed at author Cynthia Leitich Smith's website.  The cover was revealed at We Need Diverse Books.  Author, educator, founder and writer at American Indians in Children's Literature, speaker and recipient of the 2019 (May Hill) Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award Dr. Debbie Reese (tribally enrolled Nambe Pueblo) speaks about this book on her site.

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

Dear Readers:

Please do not be confused by time references in this post.  I started it well before midnight on November 6, 2019 but did not complete it until the early hours of November 7, 2019.  Thank you.

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