Quote of the Month

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

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.

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