Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Save To Savor . . . And Share

We collect.  We gather.  We save.  What an individual chooses to collect, gather or save depends on their needs and wants.  Some items are necessary for life; others are reminders of moments in that life.  Some things are tangible, and others are not.  Those we hold in our minds.

We may find some things harder to collect, gather or save but this is what makes them all the more cherished by us. In A Jar (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, January 21, 2020) written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero is a book which opens our hearts to possibilities.  It shows us how nothing can break the bond of friendship formed with love.

Llewellyn was a collector.
He collected things in jars.

Inside his jars were things representing all the wonder he witnessed around those objects.  If you looked inside his jars, you would see how observant Llewellyn was.  He gathered things he noticed as he wandered out in the world.  (He collected heart-shaped stones, just like me.  I already love this little guy.)

One evening something out of the ordinary happened.  The sky was an exquisite color of red and Llewellyn wanted to save it.  When he was at the edge of the water, he met Evelyn.  Llewellyn put some of that sunset glimmer in a jar and presented it to Evelyn.  You won't believe what the jar did all night long in Evelyn's bedroom.

Llewellyn and Evelyn became the best of friends, collectors of the marvelous things they saw, heard, tasted, smelled or felt.  Nothing was impossible.  During winter, spring and summer they filled jars with all the delights they shared; jars holding trips down ski hills, walks through a field of red tulips and summer shadows.

Jars of all shapes and sizes were placed on shelves lining the walls of Llewellyn's home.  One day, though, this all stopped.  Evelyn's family was moving. 

On one of those nights after Evelyn was gone, when sleep did not come easily, Llewellyn saw something, a collectible something.  He needed to share it with Evelyn.  Later, miles and miles away from Llewellyn, Evelyn saw something, too, a collectible something.  Friendship finds a way to keep love glowing and growing, spreading out.

When author Deborah Marcero speaks of Llewellyn and then, Evelyn, these are two children in which readers will immediately feel a kinship.  They, with respect and no fanfare, appreciate everything around them.  They notice things others might walk past.

Deborah Marcero draws us deeper into the story with her rich descriptions.  We find ourselves astonished and willing to join Llewellyn and Evelyn in their mutual quest to collect those exquisite moments which sometimes only happen once.  Here is a passage.

One night, the sunset painted the sky the color of
tart cherry syrup.  Llewellyn ventured down to the
shore with as many jars as he could carry.

(I don't know about you, but I don't think I'll ever look at a sunset again without thinking of tart cherry syrup.)

Every element on the front of the dust jacket is like one part of an enchanting whole.  The play of sunlight and shadow, the tall trees stretching past the top edge, the vast array of bluebells and Llewellyn and Evelyn, there together, with their jars is like the final piece in a perfect puzzle.  You want to sigh, and you do. 

To the left, on the back, is a canvas of a sunny yellow sky and slightly rolling hills of greens with a bit of blue and brown.  The setting sun, a fiery orb, casts long shadows of a single tree, Llewellyn and Evelyn.  A single sentence says:


The book case background is a bright golden yellow.  On the back, left, and on the right, front, are jars of all shapes and sizes, filled with a variety of items.  On the left, Evelyn is kneeling in front of a jar as a turtle comes out with a snail on its shell.  On the right, Llewellyn is reaching into an equally large jar.  He is close to a butterfly inside with two others and a leafy branch.  A cocoon hangs from the branch.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a pattern of wind-blown leaves in hues of green shifting to yellow, orange and red as they move from left to right.  On the back the color alterations are in reverse.  Butterflies float across the title page and over the gutter to the verso page.  They flutter on all sides of Llewellyn who stands on some grass and holds a jar.


in pencil, watercolor, ink, and digital media

the illustrations elevate a lovely narrative to excellence.  Smaller images, more close-up of the characters, are placed within two-page pictures.  Although what has been collected remains in a jar, the memory attached to it swirls around the endearing characters.

Sometimes three smaller visuals in a row will be used to highlight one or two words.  They show a sequence of events.  Two-page illustrations and single-page pictures extend page edge to page edge to create a dramatic effect.  And sometimes jars, many jars filled with the beauty of a season, are all we see on a page.  The delicate details, fine lines and color selections by Deborah Marcero are stunning.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is beneath the words:

the newness of spring . . .

The sky above our characters is a pale blue gray.  Rolling hills of tulips in hues of red and pink cover two-thirds of the single page.  The perspective goes from tulips that are almost the size of dots to much larger along the bottom of the page.  About halfway up the page are Llewellyn and Evelyn.  All we can see of them are their heads and upright ears and a tiny bit of the top of their clothing. This is utterly charming.

When you read this book, In A Jar written and illustrated by Deborah Marcero, no matter if it's the first time or the tenth time, you have to remind yourself to breath.  It's that striking in words and artwork.  This is a book your readers and listeners will ask you to read again and again.  I imagine a collection of jars filled with objects and memories will grow.  I highly recommend this for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Deborah Marcero, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Deborah Marcero maintains accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the endpapers.  Deborah Marcero is interviewed on the podcast Picturebooking.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Words And The Freedom To Fly

We readers, those of us who enjoy reading and spreading the joy of reading to others, know certain truths.  We know words are powerful.  Every single word, sentence, paragraph and story we read becomes a part of our story.  Whether we are informed by facts or fiction, we are not the same.  We are more than we were before.  We are connected to the creators of those words, sentences, paragraphs and stories and every other person who reads them. 

For these reasons and numerous others, being able to read is not only a right (The Students' Right to Read, NCTE and The Freedom to Read Statement, ALA) but a gift we give to ourselves.  The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned To Read (Schwartz & Wade, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, January 7, 2020) written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard with illustrations by Oge Mora is a moving tribute to the resilience and determination of a remarkable woman.  With every page turn your admiration for this woman grows until the one striking moment you realize you're changed by learning about her life.

Whenever young Mary Walker was tired, she would shield her eyes from the sun and watch the swallow-tailed kites dip and soar above the trees.

As she watched those birds dip and soar, she imagined it was the same as being free.  Mary Walker never stood still long though, she had to keep working on the plantation in Alabama.  She also knew she was not allowed to learn to read.  She was eight years old, a slave and the year was 1856.

At fifteen and fatherless, she and her family were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.  Many of the freed people left but Mary stayed with her mother and siblings.  She worked seven days a week.  She was paid a quarter for that week of work.

Along the road one day, Mary Walker was given a Bible by an evangelist.  She treasured this gift but couldn't read a word of it.  There was no time to learn to read.  There was only time to work as a sharecropper, a maid, nanny or cook, a mother to three sons and a wife to two husbands. (Her first husband died.)  Mary worked and worked and worked like this for decades until she was sixty-eight years old.  There was no more sharecropping for her, but she still worked doing whatever she could for others.

One by one, Mary's husband and three sons died.  She found herself alone at 114 years old.  She decided it was time to learn to read.  Like she had worked and worked at all her other jobs, she worked and worked at learning to read and write.  The day Mary Walker could read was cause for celebration.  People in her community of Chattanooga celebrated.  Other journalists from other towns came and celebrated.  And a man from the US Department of Education arrived and celebrated. She was 116 years old.  She was an impressive and inspirational force and still is today.  (Mary Walker passed away on December 1, 1969.)

As you read about the life of Mary Walker as written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard you feel a growing sense of respect.  With each detail about Mary Walker's life, layer by layer, your wonder for this woman builds.  There is a tension created by Mary having to work and wanting to read.  You find yourself making exclamations out loud.  You find yourself saying, if Mary Walker can do it, so can I.  Here is a passage.

Mary was twenty years old when her first son was born.
She opened her Bible and marveled at the squiggles inside.  There had been no
time to learn to read.
A friend wrote Mary's son's birth date in the Bible:  August 26, 1869

Then Mary dipped a pen into an inkwell and made her mark beside it.
Not a letter, not a name, just a mark.  It was the best she could do.

As soon as you gaze at the open dust jacket, you recognize the signature artwork of Oge Mora.  This image on the front and all the illustrations throughout the book are rendered

in acrylic paint, china marker, colored pencil, patterned paper, and book clippings.

The soft swirl of sky and clouds on the front moves over the spine to the back.  What changes is Mary Walker.  On the front she is much older and hugging her beloved Bible in front of buildings in the city where she resided.  To the left, on the back, she is much younger, standing along the road.  She is still hugging her Bible, perhaps on the day she received it.  Behind her to the left, a field is being tended by a sharecropper.  The caption on the back reads:


On both faces of Mary Walker, old and young, there is quiet determination.  Her closed eyes suggest deep reflection. 

On the book case a collage of paper pieces is covered by a wash of golden yellow.  From left to right swallow-tailed kites soar higher and higher and off the right-hand corner.  A light silhouette of Mary Walker is standing in the lower, left-hand corner, looking up and shielding her eyes from the sun.

On the opening and closing endpapers, Oge Mora has placed black and white photographs of Mary Walker in blue frames on a varied blue patterned paper.  There are lines of green and yellow running through it also.  A smaller visual on the title page shows an open book with swallow-tailed kites flying from the pages.

Oge Mora's pictures span two pages, single pages or part of a full page.  She conveys deep emotions in the placement of every single element in her images.  As each page is turned, we find ourselves looking for Mary Walker.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  A table covers nearly one-half of the bottom.  On the left it's a place for text.  From the left to right, on this table are a cup, a crumpled piece of paper, pages covered in the words Mary Walker, some blank pieces of paper and Mary Walker's glasses.  Mary Walker is bent over the table, her head resting on her curved left arm.  In her right hand she holds a pencil.  She has fallen asleep sitting in her chair.  Above the rounded form of her back a river of letters moves from right to left.  From the top of the page to the table, the canvas is dark. 

The life of this woman as portrayed in The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned To Read written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard with illustrations by Oge Mora is uplifting in every aspect.  The blend of text and images creates a superb tribute.  There is a selected bibliography on the verso page and an author's note at the end.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Rita Lorraine Hubbard and Oge Mora and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Rita Lorraine Hubbard has accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  Oge Mora has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Rita Lorraine Hubbard is interviewed at Chapter 16 by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson and at Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb.

To view the other titles selected this week by participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Waiting For Sweetness

They appear with regularity annually.  There's still snow on the ground.  There's still a chill in the air but the days are longer and more often are filled with sunshine. They, these buckets, hang from sugar maple trees, gathering sap no longer necessary for the winter months. 

For those of us who adorn our pancakes, waffles, French toast or hot cereal with dribbles or pools of maple syrup, we are grateful to see these buckets.  Maple syrup is also preferred by some in baking and cooking as a distinctive sweetener.  The smell alone is enough to bring delectable memories soaring into our minds.  Two January releases focus their attention on collecting the sap, sugaring time. 

For those eager to learn about the process, Bear Goes Sugaring (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, January 7, 2020) written and illustrated by Maxwell Eaton III is an enlightening and lively title.  You may know Maxwell Eaton III for his Truth About . . . (Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals) series.  Maxwell Eaton III brings the same fascinating information and the same generous helping of humor to Bear Goes Sugaring as he does in his other marvelous nonfiction books.

The winter has been long and cold, and while the temperature is still below freezing at night, it's now above freezing during the day.  The sun is shining, and spring is on its way.  It's sugaring time! Time for Bear to make maple syrup.  

That means
right? (questions his canine companion) (squirrel is still snoozing)

Further details appear in a sign posted in front of Bear's home about the correct months of the year and temperatures.  Inside Bear's home she finds her brace, a hand-powered drill, her drill bit, stainless steel spouts and buckets with lids.  As she looks for the proper tree, readers are educated about four different types of maple trees.

We follow her to a sugar maple and watch as she drills a proper, size and length, hole and hammers in the spout.  A bucket is hung and covered.  It's no surprise when her dog asks if it's syrup yet.  Bear happens to notice a hole in one of the buckets (her dog did this earlier mistakenly with the hammer).  We learn about other kinds of buckets.  As the sap drips into the bucket, dog is puzzled to discover it's not syrup.  An explanation of sap follows.

As the sap falls into the buckets Bear sets up her evaporating system.  We watch her build the structure and stack the wood.  We follow how the process works to turn the sap into syrup.  We are reminded about the proportions of water and sugar in sap.  Guess how many buckets of sap are needed to make a gallon of syrup?  This is the reason syrup is expensive and prized.  It's one more generous gift from trees.

Bear works diligently for a week bringing buckets of sap to covered collection buckets until she has enough to fill the evaporator pan.  For an entire day she works over the evaporator, gradually adding sap to the pre-heater, stirring and straining.  There are a few more steps as night falls and then Bear takes a pot of syrup into the house.  (At this time her dog and the squirrel are nearly passed out from hunger.  Their craving for pancakes has reached an all-time high.)  As the full moon rises outside, inside at the kitchen table stomachs start to fill with pancakes topped with . . . maple syrup.

The information provided by Maxwell Eaton III flows like a conversation between friends.  Each portion of the process is supplied concisely and correctly to readers.  It's as if he understands exactly what we need and want to know.  The side comments by Bear's dog and the squirrel are hilarious!  Even a warming on a sign on the verso page about the process and need for a responsible (human) adult is presented with comedic conversation.  Dog says:

in dog

Generous additional fact balloons address specifics outside of the general narrative.  Illustrations are labeled for clarity.  Here are passages from one-and one-half pages.

Wait a minute! Bear notices a hole in one of the buckets.
Weird! (Dog)

Luckily, just about anything that can safely hold liquid food can hold sap.  Bear digs an empty plastic milk jug out of the recycling bin, cleans it, and cuts a hole near the top.
I lost scissors
privileges long
ago. (Dog)

Then she hangs it on a spout just like a bucket and ta-da!
I guess we'll
never mention
this again. (Dog)

Milk jugs are a great way to collect sap
without spending a lot of money. (Caption box)

The full color image on the matching dust jacket and book case is a wonderful scene of Bear working at night at her evaporator.  The trees with the hanging buckets, mountains, greenery and starry sky extend over the spine to the left edge of the back.   The design and layout on the front are superb with the steam framing Bear's face and her puny comment is just a hint of the fun and facts to come.  On the dust jacket the title text is varnished.

A lighter shade of the red found in the title text covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page is a panoramic scene of Bear's home and her barn.  The sun is just starting to rise between the mountains.  A two-page illustration contains, on the right, the front of Bear's home with the first page of the book and on the left is the mountain behind her home allowing for space for publication information.

Maxwell Eaton III rendered his pictures

with watercolor and graphite pencil on 140 lb. bright white, cold press, watercolor paper.

They alternate between full-page pictures and double-page visuals.  There are insets of detailed images within the main illustrations as well as smaller pictures on top of larger images.  The point of view shifts, also.  When Bear is inserting the spout into the tree, we only see her hand holding the hammer as it knocks the spout in place.  Careful readers will notice a humorous thread within this narrative based on the comments of Dog and Squirrel.  (And did a mouse just join this book?)

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a bird's eye view of Bear working at her evaporator.  Around the evaporator Bear on the left is skimming foam, in the center she is adding wood to the fire and on the right, she is pouring sap into the pre-heater from a bucket.  A shovel is sticking up in the snow.  Empty buckets are on the left near the barn.  In front of the wood stack on the right, Dog and Squirrel, on their backs, are lamenting the length of time this is taking and their "extreme" hunger.

This book, Bear Goes Sugaring written and illustrated by Maxwell Eaton III is funny and factual.  I can't imagine a unit on sugaring, maple syrup, food or the transition from winter to spring without this book.  There are pages showing a map of Maple Syrup Territory, A Variety of Evaporators, Old Spouts and a Traditional Sugarhouse.  At the close is an author's note and list of three resources for further reading.  I highly recommend this title for your collections.

To learn more about Maxwell Eaton III and his other books, follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Maxwell Eaton III maintains accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At Penguin Random House you can view the title page.  At the publisher's website are links to two sets of activity sheets.

Gary D. Schmidt and his late wife, writing under the name of Elizabeth Stickney, have penned a more intimate fictional account of sugaring and the wait for maple syrup.  Almost Time (Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, January 14, 2020) illustrated by G. Brian Karas is an endearing story about a boy and his father.  It's about anticipation, patience and love set within the changing seasons.

When Ethan had to eat his pancakes with applesauce instead of maple syrup one Sunday morning, he knew it was almost sugaring time.

He was curious to know if the sap was running yet.  His dad said the days were still too cold.  After sledding one day, Ethan discovered a shining sun does not necessarily mean the temperature is warmer.  The following week on Sunday Ethan again wondered if it was time to tap the trees. 

He was told the nights are still too long.  He looked for extra light and his best stuffed toy friend, but it was too dark.  Another week passed and the only difference was Ethan now had a loose tooth.  When he wondered when it will fall out, his dad was fairly certain it will come out when it's time to tap the trees.

Ethan waited and waited.  It's as if time had stopped.  It's still too cold during the day and the nights still had hours and hours of darkness.  And no matter how loose his tooth was, it did not fall out.

One day, as if by magic, something happened to Ethan at school.  When the bus delivered him home Ethan had something to show his dad.  His dad had something to show Ethan.  For an entire week the father and son duo worked together until one Sunday morning, the wait was over.  Yum.

The writing in this book is similar to the waiting and making of maple syrup.  The cadence is slow, soft and patient with results that are sweet but not too sweet.  It's worth the wait because when you get that first taste, you can't help but sigh.  Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney write with the sure knowledge of the human spirit and of the relationship between a loving child and parent.

They use a combination of narrative and conversation.  A rhythm is established by coming back to each Sunday.  Between those Sundays we see how things move forward from week to week.  They add charming details like the name of Ethan's teddy bear, Roosevelt.  Here is a passage.

When he bit down on a walnut, he discovered something.
"My tooth is loose!" he said.

His father inspected. "I expect it will fall out before long."
"How long?" asked Ethan.
"About as long as it takes the sap to start running," Dad said. 

The three trees with buckets featured on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case are tall compared to Ethan.  It's as if they symbolize the length of the wait for him.  You can imagine Ethan standing there and speaking to them as he holds Roosevelt.  What do you think he is saying?  I really like the use of shadow in the trees and Ethan and his footprints in the snow.

To the left, on the back, on a canvas of muted red is a small square with rounded corners.  On this cream-colored background sits a jar of maple syrup on a table.  Roosevelt, his head peaking over the edge of the table, is looking at it. 

A bright, deep spring green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page, with his back to us, Ethan is looking out a window at the snow.  Rendered in

pencil and digital color

these illustrations by G. Brian Karas are enchanting, elevating and expanding the text.  The double-page picture for the dedications is a gorgeous night scene, a panoramic view of Ethan and his dad's home in the woods.  It's a limited color palette with a crescent moon in the sky.

The images alternate in size to complement the text and pacing.  We are shown single-page pictures, double-page visuals, or smaller rounded corner squares or rectangles on a full page.  The facial expressions on Ethan and his father along with their body postures are lovely, so lovely.  There is an exquisite tenderness in their relationship as shown by G. Brian Karas.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  It is a loosely framed square.  It is in Ethan's bedroom at night.  We can see the outside through the window next to his bed.  A single light on the table next to his bed casts a glow in the room.  Ethan is snuggled under the covers with Roosevelt.  Ethan is looking out the window as his dad bends down and kisses him good night on his forehead.  The text for this picture is:

And the nights were still long.

You'll want to add this title, Almost Time written by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney with illustrations by G. Brian Karas, to your list of huggable books.  It will enhance your story time themes on family, seasons, patience and how maple syrup is made. Hold a place on your personal and professional bookshelves for this delightful story.

To learn more about Gary D. Schmidt and G. Brian Karas, please follow the links attached to their names.  G. Brian Karas does have an account on Twitter

Thursday, January 23, 2020

What Is . . . This?

Usually in northern Michigan our snow arrives and leaves annually as anticipated.  When the first snow falls it is not unusual for everyone to pause, wherever they are, and watch, a soft sigh escaping unbidden. (Or, in the case of my students, running to the bank of windows at the back of the library, and laughing out loud.)  Yet, when the final patch of snow melts, months later, it's cause for jubilation.  Normally, the snow changes from month to month in texture and depth.  This year, though, has been one of many surprises.

Our snow goes from a stormy seven inches deep to gooey-wet in a matter of days.  It's as if Spring does not want to let Winter have its proper time.  This weather gives us a huge variety of ever-changing snow characteristics.  Some Snow Is . . . (Putnam, G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC, November 5, 2019) written by Ellen Yeomans with illustrations by Andrea Offermann offers readers an ode to all the various types of snow.

Some snow is First Snow.
We've waited for so long snow.
Is it really snow snow,
or only heavy rain?

When snow first falls it rarely lasts, but as the narrator says, we wait for the snow which stays.  In between, there will be a blend of rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow.  Sometimes the snow is so light, it simply goes where the wind blows.

As it deepens there is play; children falling with arms and legs spread and making angels.  The snow quality shifts allowing the building of snow forts and snowballs.  It is a time to be an architect or simply a maker of shapes.

On the days the snow pours from the sky, wet, heavy and deep, we shovel to help our father clear a pathway and the driveway.  We move it from one place to another place.  It gets higher and higher.  Guess what we do now?

We wander in the woods, looking at tracks made by all sizes of creatures.  Who went there?  Who went here?  We join other children, towing sleds to the top of the hill and careening down at take-your-breath-away speeds.  And we do it again because we can.

There is one snow better than any other kind of snow.  It's so wild and windy, we huddle cozy inside until the next morning we roll and sculpt another chilly child, a familiar figure seen across lawns and fields.  He stands until snow is but a thought we hold until the next First Snow.

The words in this book written by Ellen Yeomans reveal a personal connection to snow, portraying vivid experiences.  The snow described here is as children see it.  It's depicted as an abundance of opportunities.  At the end of the fourth and eighth lines a word rhymes, tying the rhythm together.  Here is another passage.

Some snow is Angel Snow.
Finally covers all snow.
Lightly and slightly deep snow---
drop down and make some wings.

The liberal use of blue on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case evokes the chill of winter.  The primary colors in the children's clothing with the green in the one coat is a colorful contrast.  Everything is enlivened with the falling snow and snowy text.  This image is pure happiness.  To the left, on the back, is a crisp white canvas with three smaller pictures of children enjoying snowy activities.  Words from the narrative describe the kind of snow:

First Snow!
Sledding Snow!
Snowman Snow! 

On the opening and closing endpapers is a continuation of the falling snow against shades of a paler blue sky.  On the title page we are standing inside the children's home, next to a chair used to drape snow clothing. A pair of boots are beneath it.  The door is open to the snowy world outside.

Each illustration, rendered

with pen, ink, and watercolor with digital touches

by Andrea Offermann is a cheerful celebration of each day filled with each kind of snow.  Her attention to detail is superb.  Her point of view shifts from bird's eye as the children look up at snow, to a wider-angle of snow starting to gather on neighborhood homes to a panoramic view of the community atop the sledding hill.

The scenes are a beautiful depiction of an array of settings with our eyes drawn immediately to the children.  The facial expressions on these characters are wonderful portraits.  These pictures, ranging in size from double page to full page and to a group of three smaller images, are so spirited you expect them to come to life at any minute.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  We are looking down at a large snowy expanse.  In the upper left-hand corner, we see a small portion of a wooden fence and open gate.  In the lower right-hand corner, a child, hands on hips, is standing and looking as we are.  Next to them is a pooch pal seen in some of the pictures.  We are all looking at snow angels spread before us, connected by footprint paths.  The angels are accented in blue and yellow.

This book, Some Snow Is . . . written by Ellen Yeomans with illustrations by Andrea Offermann, is for remembering and wondering.  It is brimming with joy and appreciation for snow.  It would be a wonderful addition to a theme on winter, snow or perhaps a study of Snowflake Bentley.  You'll want to add this title to your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Ellen Yeomans you can follow her on her Instagram or Twitter accounts.  To discover more about Andrea Offermann, you can access her website by following the link attached to her name.  She maintains a blog and an account on Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.

On a personal note I want to introduce you, if you aren't already familiar with it, to a blog maintained by author and reviewer Julie Danielson titled Seven Impossible Things Before BreakfastI have visited this blog for more years than I can remember.  I have learned wonderful things about authors and illustrators through her posts.  In this post, I discovered Some Snow Is . . . I am grateful to Julie Danielson and to her passion for children's literature.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


Music permeates every aspect of our lives.  Daily there is a cadence and chorus of sounds.  The hum of a furnace, air conditioner, a clothes or hair dryer, or a refrigerator inside our homes blend with the whistle of wind, birdsong, the howl of coyotes or the ringing of wind chimes.  Reading or hearing a single word can add an entirely new series of notes to this familiar symphony.

Anyone who grows up near the Motor City and spends their life in Michigan has sung and danced to the music made by the Queen of Soul.  All you have to do is hear her name and the sound of her voice singing the words of one of her songs will play in your mind all day long.  A Voice Named Aretha (Bloomsbury Children's Books, January 7, 2020) written by Katheryn Russell-Brown with illustrations by Laura Freeman pays tribute to this extraordinary musician's life in memorable words and images.

Folks came from miles around to hear Reverend C. L. Franklin preach at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan.  The famous preacher gave soul-stirring sermons that could make you shout, moan, or nod and whisper "Amen."

As some of the most famous names associated with African American arts and civil rights visited the Franklin home in Detroit, Michigan, quiet Aretha watched and listened.  Aretha and her siblings all sang gospel music in their father's church, but little Aretha had a voice that was pure magic.  Twice deep sadness entered the child's life before she was ten; first for the end of her parent's marriage and then the death of her mother.  Aretha sang through her sorrow with her first solo.

More than a thousand people heard Aretha sing that beautiful uplifting song.

At twelve she traveled with her father.  He preached and she sang.  Both sent out a riveting message to those gathered to listen.  At eighteen she moved to New York City and signed with a record company.  In keeping with what she had been taught, Aretha never performed unless everyone was allowed to attend.

Before too long Aretha realized she needed to switch record companies.  She did this and got a new band.  Her song "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love you)" rose to the top of the charts selling one million copies.

Aretha Franklin became the first woman to enter the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  The year was 1987.  Do you know why Aretha Franklin's signature style of wearing a fur coat on stage began?  (Readers of this title will learn.)  To everyone who heard her perform in person or listened to her music on their radios or stereos or today, through their devices, she lifted (and still lifts) them up.  Everywhere Aretha Franklin went, the world was enriched for her having been there.

Meticulous research and an abiding respect for Aretha Franklin inspired and directed the writing of Katheryn Russell-Brown.  This is evident in every word we read.  As we move from passage to passage through Aretha Franklin's life, it's as if there is a soulful beat similar to her music captured and presented on the pages.  Here are two separate passages.

Before she went on tour with her band, Aretha was warned that club owners sometimes tricked singers out of their money.  No way was she going to let that happen!  She demanded payment in cash, before the show.  And when she went on stage, she always put her handbag where she could see it.  Aretha could put on a show and take care of business.

Each one of her songs is like a sermon, with a story and a lesson, seasoned with life wisdom, hard work, and always, lots of soul.  They remind us of the greatest joy or the deepest pain.

The warmth of the colors, the vibrant reds, purples and golden yellows, shown on the open and matching dust jacket and book case, convey the essence of Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, and her music.  The portrait of her singing as a little girl and as an adult with the album between them symbolizes the length and breadth of her talent.  Both facial expressions depict a revelation and release of her gift into the world.

The curtain on the front continues over the spine to create another stage with these words between the two curtains.

Aretha's songs inspire
us to think, love, and
respect ourselves
and one another. 

On a regal purple a collection of 45 records of Aretha Franklin's songs are displayed on the opening and closing endpapers.  Aretha Franklin stands clothed in a yellow gown, singing with a microphone in her hand on the title page against a canvas of white.

The illustrations, rendered digitally with Photoshop, by Laura Freeman are presented on single pages and as double-page pictures.  Laura Freeman places the elements in her images close to us or farther away to fashion an emotional moment.  When young Aretha learns of her mother's passing, she is shown smaller, standing in front of a dresser with the gift from her mother of a nurse's kit on top.  She is hugging a picture of her mother.  There is an abundance of white space around her.  When she is recording one of her first songs, she is shown larger than life before a hanging microphone in the studio.  Her face and upper body fill the page as she stands, eyes closed.  To her right two other accompanying singers are shown in shades of gray.  Readers will note the attention to detail as to historical correctness in architecture, clothing, automobiles and hair styles in the illustrations.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is a double-page picture.  For the background a "sea" of seated people is spread in faded colors.  From right to left is a stage, widening a bit on the left.  On the left side is a piano in blue.  Behind a red podium is ten-year-old Aretha Franklin.  Dressed in yellow, hair in two braids and standing on a chair to be seen with her arms outstretched, she is singing her first solo.  Her back is to us.

This book, an acclamation to the life work of the Queen of Soul, A Voice Named Aretha written by Katheryn Russell-Brown with illustrations by Laura Freeman, is one to have on the shelves of your professional and personal collections.  At the close of the book are two pages titled More About The Queen Of Soul.  This is followed by A Note From The Author, A Note From The Illustrator, Songs By Aretha Franklin, Notes For "More About The Queen Of Soul" and Sources.  Once you've read this individually or to a group, be prepared to be singing and dancing to her songs for days.

To learn more about Katheryn Russell-Brown and Laura Freeman and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites. Katheryn Russell-Brown has an account on Twitter.  Laura Freeman has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Katheryn Russell-Brown wrote a post at the Nerdy Book Club and was interviewed at Book Q&As With Deborah KalbPlease enjoy these two musical videos.  I've been singing them in my mind for several days.

Take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other titles selected this week by participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Vote. Elections. Our Right.

Words are powerful; of this there is no doubt.  Their clever and careful use creates change.  One word with more than a single meaning is the word right.  It indicates a direction.  It can be a direction in your thinking or in literally moving from one point to another point.  It is the opposite of wrong; sometimes differentiating between fact and fiction or truth and a lie.  It refers to claims made regarding freedoms.

This past Sunday, January 19, 2020 my mom would have been one hundred years old.  It still boggles my mind to think at the time of her birth the ratification for women to vote in the United States was not complete.  The Nineteenth Amendment was not officially ratified until August 18, 1920 and not adopted until August 26, 1920.  There are still people today, here in the United States and around the world, who are struggling to exercise this right and championing for this right.  The right to vote can determine many aspects of our lives.  The President Of The Jungle (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC January 7, 2020) written and illustrated by Andre Rodrigues, Larissa Ribeiro, Paula Desgualdo and Pedro Markun and translated from the Portuguese by Lyn Miller-Lachmann is about a group of animals who believe they need a new leader; one who acts for the benefit of everyone.

what happened 
to our river?

Lion wanted a swimming pool.
So, because he was King of the Jungle,
he rerouted the river to flow into his
front yard.  Now he had his pool!

This altering of the river's direction affected all the jungle animals for similar and different reasons.  They questioned the Lion's leadership.  They decided to protest his actions.  He ignored their concerns.  For this reason, they wanted an election, a democratic election to select a new head of their realm.

The owl explained an election to those who had only experienced life under a king. Together the animals of the jungle made a list of seven rules to follow in their election. 

7) Candidates cannot eat their opponents.

Monkey, Sloth, Snake and, yes, Lion wanted to be candidates.

They each proposed a platform.  They were varied, from providing privileges for a few to providing a voice and vision for everyone.  Each candidate worked to persuade the residents of the jungle to cast their vote for them.  Every form of media was used.  They appeared in person at rallies and during debates.  There were numerous, sometimes endless, discussions and arguments.

When the day of the first election came, the animals eagerly awaited to cast their secret ballot.  A candidate (Guess who?) was disqualified for breaking one of the seven rules.  Owl was the vote counter.  During the winner's acceptance declaration, the animals listened and knew they had all, even the candidates, been heard.  Every vote and very voice counts.

As stated on the title and verso pages this book is a result of a collaboration between four people, Andre Rodrigues, Larissa Ribeiro, Paula Desgualdo and Pedro Markun.  It was first published in Brazil in 2018 with the title Eleicao dos Bichos by Companhia das Letrinhas.  Through the translation by Lyn Miller-Lachmann readers are presented with a simple straightforward narrative easily understood by all ages.  In addition to the story line, commentary by the animals is included to enrich the tale, giving it a more personal perspective.  Certain words, later defined in a glossary at the close of the book, are placed in bold typeface for emphasis.  For the section on the four candidates a poster is placed on the left with their personal platform stated opposite, on the right.  Here is a passage.

The other animals were not happy.
They missed their river.  Lion had gone
too far!  Maybe he should not be 
King of the Jungle.

It's ridiculous! (a monkey)
Lion thinks only of himself! (an armadillo)
We have no water!  My children are thirsty! (a rabbit)
Let's protest!  (a crocodile)
What if we had a new leader? (a sloth)

The highly animated scene of the animals eager to exercise their right to vote in their first election, on the matching dust jacket and books case, is our first glimpse of the lively and vibrant artwork featured throughout the book.  The animals' expressions here, even Lion, are happy and determined.  To the left, on the back of the matching jacket and case, an array of plants, leaves and ferns, in bright colors are placed on the same green canvas.  A large-beaked red bird perches on a sign reading:

The animals have HAD IT with
their king and are going to hold

A rabbit, wearing a tutu and a necklace, is holding a sign which reads:


On the opening and closing endpapers a golden background is used. The four candidates in the presidential election are depicted between the text on the title page.  This is framed in a golden yellow, square-shaped line with some ferns.  The river bed, sans water, begins on the verso and continues to the right with an animal and the first line in the story.  The canvas is white. 

The illustrations rendered

by mixing hundreds of paper cutouts and loose pencil and charcoal doodles, and then coloring them digitally

span double pages and full pages.  Background colors shift from white to one of the colors used in the animals, pink, dark green, dark pink, light orange, dark orange, a light yellow-green and rich purple for an evening sky.  The wide-eyed expressions and body postures leave no doubt as to the emotional mood of the jungle animals.

One of my favorite illustrations is the double-page picture on Election Day.  The background is white, acting here, and in all the images, as an element.  From top to bottom on the left are sprays of trees, ferns and leaves.  They continue across the gutter diminishing in height as a focal point is reached.  The animals appear as silhouettes, walking in a line, from left to right.  Their goal is the ballot box on the far right.  Rhinoceros is putting his ballot in the box.  This picture portrays exercising one's freedom.

Timely and important, The President Of The Jungle written and illustrated by Andre Rodrigues, Larissa Ribeiro, Paula Desgualdo, and Pedro Markun and translated by Lyn Miller-Lachmann, is a book to use to introduce the process and practice of democratic elections.  It also supplies readers with a reason for people's voices to be heard.  The seven rules and final two sentences are certain to promote discussions.  The glossary of election terms are words younger readers will have heard in adult conversations.  This is an excellent choice for your professional and personal collections.

To discover more about Larissa Ribeiro and Lyn Miller-Lachmann, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Larissa Ribeiro has accounts on Behance, Facebook and Instagram.  Lyn Miller-Lachmann has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view the title page.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Shenanigans And Slumber

Regardless of the continent, country or community, it is a routine repeated daily.  When parents are ready to rest, their children are not sleepy.  You would think after a day of nearly non-stop action the children would be tired, but the opposite is true.  The words, it's time for bed, are akin to a super surge of energy for little gals and guys.

They will say and do anything to avoid going to bed. Bedtime for Sweet Creatures (Sourcebooks, Jabberwocky, January 14, 2020) written by Nikki Grimes with pictures by Elizabeth Zunon is a story of patient parental persuasions.  It is a story of the enchantment of love renewed each evening.

 NO! NO! NO!

A child shouts as soon as their mother calls them to bed.  Employing a new tactic, mimicking the call of an owl, the child wants to know who has to go to bed.  In reply the mother carries the child's teddy bear to their bed believing the child will follow.  The child runs, climbs on the bed and sounds not unlike a bear.

Now beneath the covers the child cowers and speaks in a whisper, fearful.  Like a triumphant declaration, the mother calls out her assurances.  Further putting off the inevitable, the child implores like a king of beasts for Mother to look under the bed.

Now is the time for stories.  The child, motionless like an animal waiting, listens and then settles in for the wonder of once upon a time.  Even though the child is nestled deep under the blankets, they are restless and nervous as an animal who sleeps in nests among the trees.  Leaping up, they hug their mother one more time, clinging like a koala. 

Each time the mother utters a sentence the child acknowledges her words by portraying, in the mother's mind, a well-known animal. Two final ploys and the child runs to bed.  Or do they? Wishing for sleep, the mother and father, now in their bed, hear a final but familiar sentence softly said.  Who is with them now?

No matter how many times you read this book, these wonderful words, written by Nikki Grimes, you'll find yourself hugging it at the end.  You'll want to put it under your pillow.  Having the story told by the mother is perfection.  Her combination of narrative and spoken words is as if she is telling her child this story the next day or as far in the future as when the child is now an adult.  Most important is the strong undercurrent of deep affection found in the words used by Nikki Grimes.  Here is a passage.

You yawn
and grind
your teeth like a

ready to nibble the night.

not sleepy."
you tell me.

I smile and
tuck you in tight

The image shown on the open and matching dust jacket and book case spans from the back, the left edge, over the spine to the front, the right edge.  It is a majestic depiction of a tiger, bear, lion, fawn, koala, owl and a portion of a wolf.  The brilliant array of eye-catching colors and blend of realism with the culturally patterned animals is absolutely stunning.  The stars on the rich deep blue, with the crescent moon, mirror those found in our night skies, some forming constellations.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a repeating pattern of five vertical stripes of paper.  They are in shades of blue with some green, gray and gold.  They represent the many moods of the story and of the night. (They appear again as the fabric for the parent's quilt.)  On the title page, the animal featured is the back portion of the tiger.  It's a continuation of the tiger from the back of the jacket and case.  The varnished title text, moon and some stars shown on the jacket is repeated here.


using oil and acrylic paint with cut paper collage, marker, and gel pen 

the pictures by Elizabeth Zunon shown as full-page illustrations at the beginning and end and double-page visuals throughout the book present realistic characters and settings.  The inclusion of the animals, life-size, is a striking contrast.  Elizabeth Zunon's color choices are complementary.  Each illustration elevates the text, sending the lyrical words out to wrap around readers in warmth.

One of my many, many favorite images is when the mother is carrying the child's teddy bear in her hand and walking down the hallway toward the child's bedroom.  As a background for most of the double-page picture, except for the wood floors along the bottom, an elegant wallpaper is shown in hues of dark blue.  The mother is striding along, wearing a lighter blue top, pink bottoms and blue slippers with white pom-poms.  She is on the left side.  On the right side is the toddler in their red pajamas running with an arm outstretched.  Between the background and the mother and child is the bear.  It's enormous; spanning from two-thirds on the left to a little more than half on the right.  It, like all the animals, is contented and walking.  It is colored in shades of blue, turquoise and a spring green.  The pattern on its body looks ancient.

This book, Bedtime for Sweet Creatures, written by Nikki Grimes with pictures by Elizabeth Zunon is a work of art.  It presents a timeless story through a fresh perspective.  I highly recommend it for your personal and professional libraries.  (On a more personal note, when I visit my hair stylist, I always talk about books with her, even bringing titles to show her.  Yesterday, she was telling me about a book her daughter picked out at the public library.  They have read it multiple times and loved it.  It is this book.)

To learn more about Nikki Grimes and Elizabeth Zunon and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Nikki Grimes has accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  Elizabeth Zunon maintains accounts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

All Abuzz

They are rarely an inch long but can fly fifteen miles per hour.  Their wings are known to beat more than 200 times per second.  This is why we can hear them buzzing as they move from place to place.

We don't see them in the winter months as snow covers the ground, icy winds blow, and temperatures are chilly.  In fact, as soon as the temperatures fall below fifty degrees, bees return to the hive surrounding the queen.  With the movement of their wings they can heat their home and keep the queen warm.  They get their energy from the honey they've stored.  In her newest release, Beehive (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, January 7, 2020), Jorey Hurley speaks to readers in the simplest of terms, single words, about the formation of a honeybee home and how its inhabitants flourish.


A single bee moves among flowers.  It is joined by several others to form a swarm and to swarm.  They are seeking a place for a new home.  A hollow in a tree looks promising.  Slowly like pieces in a puzzle they form a honeycomb.

The queen places an egg in each cell.  As the new life grows in those cells, it is feed.  When the cells open, a new bee flies to take its place in the life of the hive.

From flower to flower bees collect nectar and pollen.  Some of the pollen remains on their bodies and encourages new flowers to grow as they fly from blossom to blossom.  Other bees stay at the hive.  They protect it from honey-hungry animals.  Still more make honey, lots of honey.  They need it when snow covers the ground, icy winds blow, and temperatures are chilly.

With fifteen meticulously chosen words, author Jorey Hurley brings readers into the realm of honeybees.  Each of the first fourteen words focuses on an action; all leading to the final noun.  These words invite us to supply more narrative.  It becomes a mental question and answer working together with the images.  It's a brilliant technique.

Rendered digitally in Photoshop the graphic design throughout the book, seen first on the open and matching dust jacket and book case, is superb.  While the elements are large and bold, notice the pollen collecting on the legs of the bees as they work on the flowers.  The white space becomes an element framing and illuminating the other colors.  The title text, flowers and bees are varnished on the front of the dust jacket.

To the left, on the back, portions of leaves emerge from the bottom.  The stems hold up purple flowers with broad petals and golden centers.  A single bee flies over the right flower.  These items are placed against the white background.

On white on the opening and closing endpapers are sixteen bees, nine on the left and seven on the right, in various positions of flight.  The image from the back of the jacket and case is shown again on the left of the double-page picture with additional flowers on the right for the title page.  Each double-page picture in this book takes us immediately into the scene which is a reflection of the shown single word.

White space accents a field with flower and a single bee.  In the next illustration we move closer to see more bees gathering. Jorey Hurley shifts her perspectives to keep readers actively engaged.  For the word find, we are given a panoramic view of several scenes as the swarm flies toward the hollow in a large tree.  In the subsequent visuals we are close and inside that hollow captivated by the tasks of the bees.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the word explore.  In this picture we wander among a sea of hues of green, white and purple.  The bees hum and drift among clusters of bushy white blooms created by a multitude of white, layered dots and tall spiky stems of deep lavender with long green leaves.  There is no sky, only this expanse of flora.

Beehive written and illustrated by Jorey Hurley is an adventure into the lives of creatures essential to life on our precious planet.  In an author's note on the final page an expanded narrative is fashioned from all the words used in the book, explaining what is happening in each image.  There is mention of the challenges facing wild and domestic bee populations and conservation efforts.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  (If you have not read her other books, Nest, Ribbit, Every Color Soup, Hop, Skyscraper and Fetch, I encourage you to do so.)

To learn more about Jorey Hurley and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Jorey Hurley has accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior imagesincluding one of my favorite ones.  In the video below Jorey Hurley talks about her first book and a little bit about her process.

Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to learn about the titles selected this week by those participating in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.  This week Alyson showcases nonfiction releases for the months of January and February.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Clever Cardboard Creativity

Given the opportunity children, in their infinite wisdom, inventiveness and openness, will amaze you.  It's a joy to see how they can create something marvelous from nearly nothing.  Fortunately for the world, they think outside the box.  Not only do they think outside the box, but give them a box, any size of box, and what they do with it is extraordinary.

Their first thought is not to cut up and flatten a box for recycling.  Their first thought is what can I make with this box.  To them the possibilities are limitless.  In her first book as both author and illustrator, Boxitects (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, January 14, 2020), Kim Smith introduces readers to Meg, a genius at using boxes to build anything her heart desires.

MEG was a boxitect.  She loved to make things out of boxes.

The size of her handiwork ranged from small to large and from low to the ground to the top of the ceiling.  Her results filled her with pride.  Her mother believed, like Meg, there wasn't anything she couldn't construct from a box.  Meg's mother decided to enroll her in Maker School.

At Maker School children crafted creations from all kinds of materials, blankets, pasta, tin and even egg cartons, but Meg was the only boxitect.  Here Meg refined her skills.  She ensured her constructions were practical, stable and lovely to look at.  It was wonderful until the new student, Simone, arrived.  Simone was a boxitect.

She was as gifted as Meg.  She believed it was her duty to point out the possible flaws in Meg's work.  In response, Meg pointed out the possible flaws in Simone's work.  Tension filled the air between these two designers and builders.

As a finale to the last day of Maker School, the Maker Match was held.  You had to work in teams.  This was an easy rule for the other students to follow.  Meg and Simone refused to work together. They divided an enormous box in half and got busy.  Boxes in the school disappeared as the two objects, separate but bound together, grew. When disaster flies in, Meg and Simone must decide what is most important to them.

To begin, Kim Smith honors the tradition of making things from cardboard boxes with the term boxitect.  (People are or will be wondering why they didn't think of that.)  In her word choices she uses alliterative descriptors,

tiny houses
tall towers and
twisty tunnels.

A cadence,

brilliant and creative,

is repeated to tie sections of the story together.  As Kim Smith builds on Meg's successes and happiness, we can feel a tension growing.  Simone's entrance increases this unease until, in a moment of humor, the tiniest of things can provide a shift in attitudes and in the results.  Here is a passage.

The blanketeers built with blankets and pillows.

The spaghetti-tects built with pasta and glue.

The bake-ologists built with cake and frosting.

But the boxitects were not building at all.

A bright, colorful palette signals a happy resolution on the front of the dust jacket featuring Meg on her cardboard castle creation with Simone "flying" her box rocket.  Both girls are pleased with their inventive structures.  Meg's pooch pal adds a charming touch to the scene.  Many elements are varnished on the front.  This image extends over the spine to the left on the back. 

There, beneath the hanging clouds, are more cardboard buildings of all shapes and sizes.  There are the backs of trees, tall towers, a barn with a chicken weathervane, a windmill and scattered construction supplies.  It is a collage of inventiveness, one layer on top of another layer.

On the book case readers are treated to a box builder's delight.  A cardboard box is the background.  Scraps of paper and labels are pasted on it along with universal symbols.  On the front, between the title and the author illustrator's name, is a hand-drawn picture.  It looks as if it was done in crayon.  It's Meg standing in front of her home with a lawn, tree, a single cloud and a sun in the upper, right-hand corner.

On the opening and closing endpapers Kim Smith has placed, in shades of brown and white, all shapes and sizes of boxes and other items made from cardboard.  On the initial title page, Meg is carrying an armload of cardboard boxes over her head.  On the formal title page, surrounded by boxes and other supplies, she is happily at work drawing plans for her next project.

Rendered digitally in Photoshop the illustrations are double-page pictures, small vignettes grouped together on a single page and full-page pictures.  Each image size serves to heighten the current mood of the narrative.  Kim Smith shifts her point of view to draw us further into her pictorial story.  Readers will enjoy the large expressive eyes, and facial features on the diverse characters.  This is a school they will want to attend.

One of my many favorite pictures is on a full-page.  Meg's mother has walked into their living room.  She is staring at Meg's latest building, open-mouthed.  It's a massive castle, nearly to the ceiling, with multiple rooms and towers and cut-outs in the walls.  A tiny heart is placed on the top of one of the turrets and a star is on another turret.  Meg is leaning over a rampart wearing a helmet and waving a sword made from cardboard.  Her canine companion is positioned slightly below her and wearing a crown.

It is guaranteed that anyone, regardless of their age, will be searching for the nearest cardboard box after reading Boxitects written and illustrated by Kim Smith.  The ingenuity of Meg and the other characters is wonderful to see honored here as well as the support of the adults.  At the close of the book four pages are dedicated to Why is cardboard so extraordinary?, Be a Boxitect! Build a Boxitect Tunnel and Build a Boxitect Castle. Necessary supplies are listed with numbered instructions and colorful explanatory visuals.  For each of the projects a Boxitect Challenge is added.  You'll want to add this title to your personal and professional collections.  This book would pair well with What To Do With A Box by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Chris Sheban.

To learn more about Kim Smith and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At her website the page for this title contains numerous interior images.  Kim Smith has accounts on Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter.  At the publisher's website is a link to some activity pages.  This taped television interview will give you more insights into Boxitects and Kim Smith.

Monday, January 13, 2020

A Reflection On Blogging, Books, And Reading

I started this blog in 2008.  I had one single post.  It was two sentences long.  I skipped 2009 completely.  The following year there were ninety-one posts.  I began in August, working my way through a web 2.0 tutorial called School Library Learning.  My posts were a collection of book recommendations, web site how-to instructions and evaluations and even thank-you videos to those wonderful volunteers who made every single one of my book fairs a success.  My two most popular posts that year referenced virtual post-it boards PinDax (not sure if it's still active) and Wallwisher (Wall Wisher) which has become Padlet and a post on eBooks.

In 2011 my most popular post featured three websites providing information about a holiday, Halloween Happenings---Now or Next Year.  The first link no longer appears to be working but Larry Ferlazzo and Richard Byrne are still active in the field of education and technology.  Also, that year I began a weekly feature, Twitterville Talk, where links to the best Twitter had to offer in a given week, in my humble opinion, were provided.  (How did I ever keep up with this?)  My final Twitterville Talk #144 was posted on March 22, 2014.

For 2012 the three posts read the most were Perfect Picture Book Pleasure, a highlighting of Andy Runton's Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter! and a post showcasing Pikochart and eduClipper (now participate).  In 2013 the top post for a book was Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin.  The most read post about a website and technology was about Kahoot! A post celebrating the birthday of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, was the most popular post other than a book recommendation or a discussion about a website in 2014.  Neil Gaiman's interpretation, Hansel & Gretel, was the top book post and the post about Flipgrid was the most popular website and technology post.

The most popular posts in 2015 were about books, probably for the reason my focus shifted entirely toward children's literature.  The most hits were for Sweet Dreams Picture Book August 10 for 10 #pb10for10  Tuesday Takes Me There: The Healing Journey of a Veteran and his Service Dog was by far the most popular post in 2016.

The posts with the most hits in 2017 were varied.  A tribute to Amy Krouse Rosenthal was highly visited.  The Chupacabra Ate The Candelabra written by Marc Tyler Nobleman with illustrations by Ana Aranda was the book which garnered the most responses.  Two author chats with Thyra Heder and Stacy McAnulty were well-read.  The most popular post in 2017 was Mock Caldecott 2018.

The fiction picture book blog posts with the most views in 2018 were This Is The Nest That Robin Built written and illustrate by Denise Fleming and The Rough Patch written and illustrated by Brian Lies. The book trailer premiere with an interview by the author with the most hits was Cute As An Axolotl: Discovering the World's Most Adorable Animals written by Jess Keating with illustrations by David DeGrand. The most popular cover reveal was for Mission Defrostable (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast) written by Josh Funk with illustrations by Brendan Kearney.  This contains an interview with the author.  A post featuring girl power in graphic novels was well-received.  A year-end post about middle grade novels (thirty-eight) attracted a lot of attention.

This past year, 2019, based on the numbers became a year of serious reflection.  The top two posts on fiction picture books were if i was the sunshine written by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Loren Long and Babymoon written by Hayley Barrett with illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal.  Titan and the Wild Boars: The True Cave Rescue of the Thai Soccer Team written by Susan Hood and Pathana Sornhiran with illustrations by Dow Phumiruk was a nonfiction title which soared above the others in number of views.  The cover reveal for a new early reader title, Frank and Bean written by Jamie Michalak with illustrations by Bob Kolar, with interviews of the author and illustrator was enjoyed by many.

For multiple reasons, I am sure, the number of visits to this blog have diminished the past several years.  When this blog was started it was to inform visitors whether they were students, educators, parents or people who enjoy children's literature and educational websites.  It evolved into a place centered solely on children's literature, specifically book recommendations, cover reveals, blog tours and book trailer premieres.  In taking responsibility for the decreased visits, lack of consistency would be one reason. Considering that, I will be posting as consistently as possible on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday each week.  I am giving myself permission to pursue other endeavors on the other days of the week.

I don't believe I will ever tire of talking about children's literature and honoring the work of authors and illustrators in my posts.  We are truly fortunate to experience the fruits of their labors; many of them years in the making.  They are dedicated creators . . . every single one.  I hope you will continue to benefit from what I write for you here.  I will always be grateful for your support.   

Friday, January 10, 2020

What's Your Favorite . . .

Waiting for the next book in a series is like waiting for a special event or annual celebration.  If it's a fictional account with characters we adore (or villains we loathe) in a time and place we want to enter again, we can't wait to see how things have either remained the same or what new challenges will be presented.  Often authors and illustrators will insert a cliffhanger at the end of one book to heighten the anticipation for the next title.  In nonfiction series, there is usually a format we prefer.  The continuing structure of the narrative, the layout and design provide a sense of assurance.  Discovering new information within a known framework is like entering a familiar laboratory or workplace ready to begin a different experience.  Sometimes a series is a blend of both approaches, or perhaps, something entirely unknown.

Nearly six years ago, beloved and renowned author illustrator Eric Carle initiated a series titled, Eric Carle and Friends.  In the first volume, What's Your Favorite Animal? (Henry Holt and Company, January 21, 2014) thirteen author illustrators, Nick Bruel, Lucy Cousins, Susan Jeffers, Steven Kellogg, Jon Klassen, Tom Lichtenheld, Peter McCarty, Chris Raschka, Peter Sis, Lane Smith, Erin Stead, Rosemary Wells and Mo Willems, were invited to talk about their favorite animal and supply readers with a visual portrayal.  Each author illustrator is given two pages.  Eric Carle begins this book and each subsequent title.  Some of the author illustrators told a story about a favorite animal, wrote a poem, an ode, or a comedy.  At the close of the book, pictures of the author illustrators as children with short biographical information are supplied. Here is the open book case.

One of my many, many favorite depictions is that of Nick Bruel.  He titles his pages, Behold The Octopus.  On the left, in a series of panels, he talks about a variety of octopuses and their unique characteristics.  In the fourth and fifth of five panels, Bad Kitty enters from the bottom and side looking disgusted.  A discussion between Nick Bruel and Bad Kitty ensues on the right within eleven small images concluding with hilarity.

On May 2, 2017 the second book, What's Your Favorite Color? (Godwin BooksHenry Holt and Company) (Eric Carle and Friends) was released.  In this book the contributors are: Lauren Castillo, Bryan Collier, Mike Curato, Etienne Delessert, Anna Dewdney, Rafael Lopez, William Low, Marc Martin, Jill McElmurry, Yuyi Morales, Frann Preston-Gannon, Uri Shulevitz, Philip C. Stead and Melissa Sweet.  As in the previous book, each illustrator is asked to name their favorite, why it is their favorite and give readers a visual presentation.  The narratives of these author illustrators are indeed explanatory but also heartfelt reflections, nearly lyrical.  Two author illustrators picked the same color, gray, but Rafael Lopez and Melissa Sweet approached it in their signature styles.  You'll enjoy how similar their reasons truly are. We are treated, at the end, to childhood pictures and short biographies.  Here is the book case.

One of my many, many favorite pictures and essay is that of Yuyi Morales.  On the left, with a small portion crossing the gutter, is a picture of her as a child.  It is of her face and shoulders.  She is looking at the reader.  It is textured as if done in ink, black with flecks of deep dark pink.  One of her hands is raised to hold a brilliant pink, Mexican Pink, bougainvillea blossom.  In her narrative she speaks of cutting them on her way to visit her grandmother.  Her text is hand-written.

Readers only had to wait a year for the next title, What's Your Favorite Bug? (Godwin Books, Henry Holt and Company, July 31, 2018) (Eric Carle and Friends)  In this book, the author illustrators number fourteen (not including Eric Carle).  They are:  Joey Chou, Eric Fan, Denise Fleming, Ekua Holmes, Tim Hopgood, Molly Idle, Beth Krommes, Scott Magoon, Kenard Pak, Maggie Rudy, Britta Teckentrup, Brendan Wenzel, Teagan White and Eugene Yelchin.  As in the two previous books all royalties go to The Eric Carle Museum Of Picture Book Art founded by Eric Carle and his wife Barbara Carle.  In this book author illustrators feature the praying mantis, moths, the dragonfly, the katydid, the daddy longlegs, bees, ants, a ladybug, the firefly, peacock spiders, millipedes, the worker bee, the walking stick and the Rhino beetle.  You'll have fun looking at all the childhood pictures and reading the short biographies at the end.  Here is the book case.

One of my many, many favorite bugs showcased is the Praying Mantis by Denise Fleming.  The shades of green in this close-up of the bug are mesmerizing.  There are two splashes of purple in some blossoms.  She has the head of the praying mantis looking at readers because this is a special characteristic she notes in her essay.

For 2019's release, as soon as I read or think the last word, a tune from the musical Oliver! starts to play in my mind.  Before I know it, I'm singing it out loud.  What's Your Favorite Food? (Goodwin Books, Henry Holt and Company, July 23, 2019) (Eric Carle and Friends) highlights the talents of author illustrators, Aki, Isabelle Arsenault, Brigette Barrager, Matthew Cordell, Benji Davies, Karen Katz, Laurie Keller, Juliet Menendez, Greg Pizzoli, Misa Saburi, Felicita Sala, Dan Santat and Shannon Wright
You'll be heading to the grocery store and then the kitchen as soon as the first entry by Eric Carle is read.  By the time you finish, you'll be ready for a fourteen-course meal.  Here is the book case.

As with the three earlier titles, it is nearly impossible to select a favorite illustration but because I've recently discovered a new simple recipe I love, I am selecting Ramen by Dan Santat.  This illustration brings readers close to the table.  On the left are two possible sauces for the ramen along with a beverage.  Dan Santat explains ramen and how it is usually served.  On the right is a large bowl of ramen.  Yum! Yum!

This collection of books, What's Your Favorite Animals?, What's Your Favorite Color?, What's Your Favorite Bug? and What's Your Favorite Food?, all part of the Eric Carle and Friends series, present readers with an array of talented author illustrators and their reasons for selecting their favorites.  Their images and narratives are a distinct reflection of their work. You could use any one of these books to introduce units on animals, color, bugs or food.  They would work well to inspire drawing and writing by children on any of those topics.  They will also promote further research about those subjects chosen by the author illustrators or new ones the children pick as their favorite.  I highly recommend all four titles in the series.  I love them!

Attached to each of the titles is a link to the publisher's website where interior images are shown.  There are links attached to each of the author illustrator names so their websites can be accessed.  For those without websites, I attached links to sites with pertinent information about them.