Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, August 27, 2020

It's A Blog Tour To Celebrate The Return Of The Breakfast Buddies In Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast Short & Sweet

Depending on the number of days you've been fortunate to reside on this planet, you have at least once wished you could go back in time.  You may want to dial back to relive a magical moment, see a loved one who died, or right a wrong. As each decade passes you miss certain physical advantages of youth.

It seems this challenge of aging is not simply part of the human condition.  It affects all living things, even characters in picture books.  We first met the delicious duo, the breakfast buddies, in Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (Sterling Children's Books, September 2, 2015) as they raced toward a flavorful finish.  They returned to solve a mystery in Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast The Case Of The Stinky Stench (Sterling Children's Books, May 2, 2017).  Non-stop action figured heavily in their third adventure titled Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast Mission Defrostable (Sterling Children's Books, September 25, 2018) (Cover reveal and interview) For their fourth frolic in the fridge, we find them with a visible dilemma.  In Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast Short & Sweet (Sterling Children's Books, September 1, 2020) written by Josh Funk with illustrations by Brendan Kearney the fearsome friends are fading. 

Still in the fridge and behind the Swiss chard,

in their apartment on Crust Boulevard,

prepping a tea party, ready to host,

stood Lady Pancake beside Sir French Toast.

As they finished their work, each of them noticed a striking difference in their appearance.  They were going stale! Their newly acquired friend, Baron von Waffle confirmed their worst fears, but he also had a solution.  He led them to Professor Biscotti's lab.  It seemed she had a 

patented DE-spoiling ray.

More than a bit apprehensive, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast took their seats and waited to be zapped.  After the smoke cleared, Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast, Baron von Waffle and Professor Biscotti were shocked.  Shrinked to children, the pancake and French toast fled in fear of the giant waffle.  Baron von Waffle was reduced to tears at the loss of his pals.

Much shorter, the duo scampered through Bran Canyon, over, down, and toward enticing edible places.  Eventually, they discovered something better than Pasta Playgroud.  It was the library.  Meanwhile, back at Professor Biscotti's lab, she and Baron von Waffle were mixing up a savory strategy.  As we all known, the best-laid plans can sometimes be a recipe for disaster.

Tension mounted between the adults. Baron von Waffle finally noticed a tasty trick for success can be used more than once.  Listen.  Is that the sounds of Born To Fun or maybe Carrot Clemons is soloing in Crumbleland?

In a word, this title (as are the previous publications in the series) is fun with a capital F.  You'll dash from one scrumptious second to the next relishing the word play and beautifully, balanced beat supplied by the ingenuity of author Josh Funk.  Every rhyming couplet carries the plot forward to its final harmonious happening.  From the boundaries of a refrigerator Josh Funk has presented a bounty of choice cuisine to enjoy again and again.  Here is a passage.

"Phew! Are we safe now?" asked Toast at Pie Pier.

Pancake responded, "No waffles 'round here."

Then in the distance they spotted Limes Square.

Pancake asked, "Race ya?" And Toast said, "I'm there!"

[Note: I am working with a digital copy.]

Readers will hardly be able to contain their smiles and laughter when they first see the front of the dust jacket of this book.  The breakfast buddies are considerably smaller, one carrying a baby blanket and the other a teddy bear.  They are each near a stack of books with puns galore in the titles. This is a foreshadowing of an interior image.  To have the glass of milk, partially spilled, with the cascading cookies about them is a notable nod to the title.

The opening and closing endpapers are a pattern of assorted fruits, vegetables, and desserts found in a refrigerator.  Maple syrup is highlighted as is a juice box.  This is done in several shades of pale red.

There is little doubt readers will be pausing at every single page to ponder the multitude of clever details Brendan Kearney includes in his illustrations.  Everything is food related.  The sofa in Lady Pancake's and Sir French Toast's home is fashioned from bread slices as the back and a sub sandwich as the seat.  Professor Biscotti's DE-spoiling ray is pure genius.  

The size of the visuals switches from two-page pictures to full-page images, and then to a series of smaller illustrations on one or two pages.  The shifts in size place emphasis on the pacing.  At the close of the book is a spectacular double-page wordless picture with another wordless vertical gatefold disclosing the wonder to be found in a fridge created by this author and this illustrator.

The showcased food is highly animated with expressive facial features, and the signature stick-style legs and arms.  The hair and hats on the main characters are perfection.  Brendan Kearney uses a blend of bright and pastel colors.  Sometimes background elements fade to etching to draw our attention to the main characters.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  It's when we first meet Professor Biscotti and see her DE-spoiling ray.  The ray itself (which I won't describe) sits on a machine made of a chunk of cheese with halved orange slices along the bottom, red licorice, and a lollipop.  The assistants to the professor are a group of cookies, all kinds of cookies.  The professor with a large dollop of chocolate curled around her face for hair is kneeling next to the machine with a wrench in her hand.  She is wearing a lab coat and round-rimmed glasses.

You will smile for hours after reading Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast Short & Sweet by Josh Funk with illustrations by Brendan Kearney, and then you'll read it again.  The challenge faced by the children and the adults will further connect these companions to themselves and to readers.  Readers will find themselves desiring to eat breakfast, conceive their own rhyming food spaces, and think of puny book titles. You will surely want a copy of this book for your personal and professional collections to complete the set of fab four.

To discover more about Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney and their other work, please access their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  Josh Funk has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Brendan Kearney has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  There is a scheduled virtual launch party at An Unlikely Story Bookstore & Cafe for September 1, 2020 at 7pm.  Please follow the link to register.  Enjoy the book trailer and be sure to visit other sites on this tour for numerous interviews and insights.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Every Link In The Chain Of Life Has Value

Summer after summer for more than two decades, their playful antics were a gift.  They moved from the river to the shore with lightning speed and agility.  Occasionally the dock provided them a resting place.  Sometimes the remains of their snacks were seen on the nearby grass.  Their place in the ecology of the northern Michigan river world was and is invaluable in the system of environmental checks and balances.

They are among a multitude of living beings whose purpose is not initially known.  Fortunately for readers, there are authors and illustrators who seek to inform us of the essential part we all play in the preservation of our planet and its inhabitants.  If You Take Away the Otter (Candlewick Press, May 26, 2020) written by Susannah Buhrman-Deever with illustrations by Matthew Trueman is a story of destruction and restoration.  It is a reminder of what cannot be ignored.

On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.

These forests are not on land.

We need to venture to the shores and open water of our oceans to see these forests.  They are composed of kelp, a form of algae or seaweed.  Kelp is large.  It, like its counterparts on land, is home to all types of sea creatures and plants, tiny and big.  Some of them live near the bottom, along the holdfasts, or at the top among the swaying blades of kelp, looking like leaves.

Kelp forests supply larger animals of the sea and air with their meals.  The best hunter here is the sea otter.  To survive they eat food equal to at least a quarter of their own weight each day.  Today there is a balance in the kelp forest between consumers and consumed, but not too long ago disaster was barely averted.

Indigenous Peoples lived and live in harmony with sea otters, only taking what is needed.  Others arrived in the middle 1700s and nearly hunted the sea otters to extinction.

Where once there were 150,000 to 300,000 sea otters, by 1911, only 1,000 to 2,000 survived.

With the diminished sea otter population, the urchins they ate, multiplied and multiplied and multiplied.  These urchins ate and ate and ate the holdfasts of the kelp.  The kelp fell like harvested timber, changing the entire habitat.  It was a classic domino effect happening under the sea.

As sea otters were harder to locate, governments (the United States, Russia, Japan, and Great Britain) agreed to a treaty.  This is what saved sea otters and the kelp forests.  This is what helped to initiate a slow growing ebb and flow of give and take.

Each carefully written sentence based on meticulous research by Susannah Buhrman-Deever takes us to a world beneath the waters of the oceans.  Her words visualize and inform, employing a technique to expand readership.  The larger, almost lyrical narrative provides an overview and is supported by expanded details in smaller print.  This presentation supplies an easy and pleasing rhythm.  Here is a passage with one of its additional statements shown in finer, smaller font.

Abalones and clams, sea stars and octopuses, feathery sea worms and swarms of tiny swimming shrimps live in these forests.  Crabs scuttle and snails slink up and down the kelp blades.  Spiny sea urchins creep about on tiny tube feet.

Thousands of tiny creatures can be found on and around a single kelp.

It literally takes your breath away.  It is as if you are underwater swimming toward the two sea otters featured on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  The textures and hues of blue and green with white and purple are luminous in their portrayal of these two underwater marvels.  Their bodies and the complete scene extend on the other side of the spine, to the left on the back.  There a single kelp with its holdfasts sways in the current.  The air bubbles from the sea otters on the front are varnished.

The soft purple shade on the front of the jacket and case for the urchins covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Although opaque, it looks like watercolor spread across both pages on the front and back.  It continues the sense of being under the sea.  On the initial title page strings of seaweed stretch through the water.  On the double-page picture for the formal title page to the left of the words, we dive into the water through more threads of algae where the younger of the two otters swims.  Some of the threads are tinged in a near-gold color.

Using mixed media illustrator Matthew Trueman makes eloquent, nearly photographic double-page visuals.  We are under the sea gaining a closer perspective of the kelp forests and their inhabitants.  Some elements are closer to us than others, but in nearly all the pictures it is an intimate encounter.  It is like we can hear the water and waves, smell the salty air, and see what the sea otters see.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is just below the surface of the water.  The top of the water curves along the top, left to right with a seabird skimming the surface.  Close to us on the left is kelp and strands of seaweed.  Swimming toward us is a sea otter whose body curves to the right crossing the gutter and extending nearly to the right edge.  It is a magnificent depiction in the turquoise water, bubbles rising up and to the right.

This book, If You Take Away the Otter written by Susannah Buhrman-Deever with illustrations by Matthew Trueman, is a stellar addition to necessary nonfiction picture books educating readers about the worth of each living thing necessary to maintaining our planet.  At the close of the book is a discussion about Kelp Forests, Sea Otters, and People.  There are Acknowledgements to those who reviewed the text for accuracy.  There is a Selected Bibliography and books and websites under For more information about sea otters and kelp forests.  I know readers will be amazed as much as I was about importance of sea otters.  They are still classified as endangered. I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Susannah Buhrman-Deever and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  At Penguin Random House, you can see the title pages and the first double-page picture.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The First Six 2020-One Little Word

To say this year, 2020, has taken the world by surprise is a vast understatement, perhaps the largest understatement in the last 100 years.  People are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic, continued, and escalated social, economic, and racial injustices, and the horrific effects of climate change.  The sparks of hope, the lights, in this darkness are the creators of books for children.  These people continue to write and illustrate with their whole hearts, brightening our souls. 

On January 2, 2020 and on January 3, 2020, I selected books from 2019 I had not previously discussed, but wanted to highlight before diving into the new year's books. For each of the twenty-four books, I selected One Little Word as designed for the original 2006 project by Ali Edwards.  In that spirit, I wish to feature over two separate blog posts, on August 25, 2020 and September 1, 2020, eighteen books from the first six months of 2020 not previously showcased here.  For each title I will provide links when available to the publisher's website, the author's website, the illustrator's website, educational extras, books trailers, a short summary, and the introductory text.  I sincerely hope you will discover new titles to enjoy personally or professionally.


Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale With A Tail (Charlesbridge, January 28, 2020) written by Leslea Newman with illustrations by Susan Gal

Additional image views Penguin Random House

In a rhythm of contrasts between inside a family's home on the first night of Passover and outside with a homeless kitten, readers are introduced to Jewish celebratory traditions.  A boy and the kitten are connected through the waiting each one is experiencing. Both are surprised at the outcome. An author's note supplies further information. 

Inside, there was light.

Outside, there was darkness.

Inside, it was warm.

Outside, it was windy.

Inside, there was laughter.

Outside, there was silence.


Straw (Disney Hyperion, February 4, 2020) written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal with illustrations by Scott Magoon

Little, Brown and Company

Four Questions for Scott Magoon at Publisher's Weekly about his collaboration with Amy Krouse Rosenthal on this series of books

This third title, following Spoon and Chopsticks, focuses on Straw, a fellow with a need for speed.  He, along with readers, finally understands the value of moving slower.  You see much more in each day if you stop to enjoy each sensory moment. 

This is Straw's story.

Straw has a great big family of all stripes and colors.

Straw has a great bunch of friends.

And Straw has a great thirst for being first. 


NIGHT ANIMALS need sleep too (Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, February 25, 2020) written and illustrated by Gianna Marino

The crew of creatures we fell in love with from NIGHT ANIMALS returns prompting laughter with every page turn.  Possum can't sleep.  In his search for someplace dark to doze, he manages to wake up all his nighttime friends amid a series of too-close encounters.

Hey, Possum, what's wrong?

It's too bright. I need somewhere dark and quiet to sleep.


Fly, Firefly! (Sleeping Bear PressMarch 1, 2020) written by Shana Keller with illustrations by Ramona Kaulitzki

A lovely rhyming journey taken by a firefly to the sea with luminous illustrations presents the power of light.  This is based upon a letter read by the author written by Rachel Carson to a friend.  At the close of the book are a page each dedicated to Rachel Carson and Living Light.
On a breeze, through the trees,

a wind current carried him out

to see the sea.


The Society of Distinguished Lemmings (Peachtree Publishing Company Inc., March 1, 2020) written and illustrated by Julie Colombet

Publisher's website includes discussion guide, excerpt, and personality quiz

Who knew lemmings had so many rules?  Each page reveals not only rules, but an excess of comedic commentary by the mass of lemmings.  Bert has had enough and meets a bear.  It isn't until a drastic situation ensues that the lemmings understand there is a place for rules, and a time to bend them.

This is the society of distinguished lemmings.

Deep in their underground burrow, the lemmings follow a strict set of rules and are always busy with social events.

They perform long and serious plays.

Whose skull is that?

That has to be a wig.

To be or not to be, that is the question.



My Best Friend (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Division, March 3, 2020) written by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Jillian Tamaki 

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast hosted by author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson This is an extensive post about the book.

Watch. Connect. Read. hosted by Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher This is a cover reveal and a chat with both the author and the illustrator.

Experience for the first time or relive your first true blue friendship, through the words and artwork expressing the heart of a child. 

i have a new friend

and her hair is black

and it shines

and it shines

and she always laughs at everything

she is so smart

and when 

i say la la la

she says

la la la


Studio: A Place For Art To Start (Tundra, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, March 3, 2020) written by Emily Arrow and The Little Friends Of Printmaking

Readers join animal creators as the meaning of studio is defined by the activities in which they are engaging.  Rhyming text invites readers into the spaces.  Collaboration and sharing are part of creativity, too.

A place for making music,
A place for making art,
A place to build and dream and move,
A place for art to start.


When my brother gets home (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 3. 2020) written and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

A Fuse #8 Production School Library Journal guest post by Tom Lichtenheld

Oh, the wonderful joy of waiting and dreaming of the magical things you will do with your brother when he gets home from school. The title phrase ties each possibility together as the images expand them into another realm.  Each time the title phrase appears a childlike illustration portrays the school bus in another position on its trek from school to hone.

When my brother gets home . . .

we're going to have 
after-school snacks . . .

for the entire kingdom.


Fire Truck vs. Dragon (Little, Brown and Company, March 10, 2020) written by Chris Barton with illustrations by Shanda McCloskey

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Storytime! with Bill on Facebook This is a read aloud of this title.

In this companion to the earlier Shark vs. Train  Dragon and Fire truck are the best of friends.  
They are chatting with a trio of children about all the endeavors in which each of them excels.  As the story moves along, they realize the children (with whom they are camping) want them to do something else.  You'll be cheering amid your laughter with the children at the end. 

It might surprise you that a
fire truck and a dragon can in fact
be good friends.

We get along great!
Why wouldn't we?


Follow the Recipe: Poems About Imagination, Celebration & Cake (Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, March 10, 2020) written by Marilyn Singer with illustrations by Marjorie Priceman

Vibrant, lively images complement a collection of twenty-three recipes for life.  There are recipes for success in cooking, measurement, adventure, a poem, for love, and for endurance to name a few.  These recipes are presented in a variety of poetic forms to spice up the results. 

recipe for a good recipe

What's in a good recipe?

Something right for me and you.

Steps to follow, A to Z.

What's in a good recipe

for falling in love, for making a stew,

for balance or for harmony?

What's in a good recipe?

Something right for me and you.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Curiosity, Courage, And Communication

In his poem, Mending Wall, poet Robert Frost has one of the speakers repeat twice:

good fences make good neighbors.

Undoubtedly this poem and this particular line have been discussed and debated more times than we can count.  Fences are decorative.  They do provide protection for pets and young children and discourage wild creatures.  Fences designate boundaries.  In this respect fences act as a sanctuary, but do they make good neighbors?  

Fences, if they are strong and sturdy, with a foundation become walls, like those forming homes.  Hopefully, they are still safe spaces.  What happens when these walls are outside our homes keeping us from leaving or seeing beyond their heights?  Every Little Letter (Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, August 4, 2020) written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Joy Hwang Ruiz takes us to a place of walled cities.  As has happened often in human history, children (the littles) are the impetus for change, change for the better. 

Once upon a time,
there was a city of letters
surrounded by walls.

The only distinguishing feature about the letters was their size; otherwise they were the same.  Everywhere they looked they saw the letter H (h).  It was comforting to these letters to be surrounded by the walls, regardless of the fact other letters were located outside their confines.

Among the inhabitants was one curious little h.  She had questions about the other letters.  Were they even real?  One day, she got her answer.

Peeking through a hole in the wall she saw an i.  They both reached and together they formed:


Unfortunately, a large H saw this, and the hole was patched.  

In her sadness the little letter h formed a plan.  Using paper airplanes, she sent out a flurry of letters to i.  One happened to land within the walls of the letter o.  Soon the air was filled with letters.  The little letters loved this idea.  Their worlds were expanding word by word until . . . the big letters discovered the little letters' activities.

The little h hid two letters.  By moving them around, she designed another strategy.  In the dark of night, the little letters put her solution to their problem into action.  Daybreak revealed the results.  Were the large letters shocked?  Was their fear too great?  Words, brave, bold, and true won.

When picture books have broad appeal across the ages, there is something special about them.  This book penned by Deborah Underwood is one of those books.  Using letters as her characters makes them easily recognized by the youngest reader.  The concept of the twenty-six letters living in walled cities is timely and timeless. The rhythm fashioned by her words is one of exploration, and extraordinary elation, an ebb and flow of setbacks, persistence, and resonating revelations.  Her simple, but profound words supply readers with inspiration and more importantly, hope.  Here is a passage.

The idea spread from one small letter to another.

The x's tic-tac-toe
games became much
more exciting.

The b's playground
was full of surprises.

And the y's finally
got some answers.

The image extending across the front and back of the open and matching dust jacket and book case cheerfully greets readers with a combination of pastel and bright hues.  It radiates happiness through the letters' facial looks and body postures, and asks a question.  What do we need to know about every little letter and their position on the stone wall?  On the front the letters are varnished.

The sky, stone wall, and scenery stretch over the spine to the far-left edge.  The wall diminishes in a small valley before continuing upward again.  Standing in front of it are the little letter h holding a paper airplane and an even smaller h shaped like a dog.  

The opening and closing endpapers are a reflection of the beginning and conclusion of this lively and uplifting narrative.  Across a pastoral landscape, on the opening endpapers, are rows of letters in alphabetical order enclosed in walls with two clouds hanging in the upper, left, and right-hand corners.  The same landscape is present for the closing endpapers as are the letters, but warm light beams from the left to the right.  One more element is missing.

These illustrations by Joy Hwang Ruiz 

created digitally, with the help of ProCreate

span partial, single, and double pages.  They, with lots of charming details, are highly animated.  They display a range of emotions building toward the final double-page picture luminous in its joy.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when the little letter h and the little letter i extend their hands through the hole in the wall.  The double-page picture portraying this moment is pure bliss.  A rainbow of color glows on the pages.  In white hi appears in several different kinds of fonts.  The little letter h is to the left of the gutter.  The little letter i is to the right.  Both their hands are stretched to the gutter.  Above their heads in a shared speech balloon is the word hi in cursive.  

This is a book to read repeatedly.  This is a book to inspire discussions and to inspire change.  Every Little Letter written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Joy Hwang Ruiz is a title for all ages to serve as a beginning, and a reminder of what we can accomplish.  I can't imagine a personal or professional collection without a copy of this book.

To learn more about Deborah Underwood and Joy Hwang Ruiz and their other work, please access their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Deborah Underwood has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Joy Hwang Ruiz has accounts on Instagram, and Twitter.  On the publisher's website you can view the opening endpapers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Discovering Winged Wonders

There are those who look to their calendars to mark the changing seasons.  There are others, careful observers of the natural world, who know Mother Nature shifts from summer to autumn to winter, and then to spring in her own time.  Last week there were from five to seven of them in my backyard in the morning and evening, adults, and speckled youngsters.  Now, it is as if they've vanished.  Have the robins left to migrate south?

Hummingbirds, two or three, gather, and take turns, at my feeder sipping nectar all day.  Goldfinches and chick-a-dees chatter in the surrounding woods as raptors glide overhead.   Birds are active throughout the day, but those visible change from month to month.  How to Find a Bird (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, August 4, 2020) written by Jennifer Ward with illustrations by Diana Sudyka guides readers in spotting a wide range of birds in a variety of settings and habitats. 

There are a lot of ways to find a bird.

That's the wonderful thing about birds.

We will want to become a part of our surroundings, moving quietly and slowly.  We usually think of watching for birds above us because of their ability to fly, but birds find food on and under the ground.  Look there, too.  Birds near the water are often lower than if they are in flight.

Remember the hint about moving slowly?  Many birds make their nests on the ground.  We should be careful.  Sometimes we have to be detectives.  Birds blend in bark, foliage, and branches.  They might be closer than we think.

We can still look to the sky to discover new birds.  Sometimes they fly solo.  Other times they gather in a large group to create a breathtaking display of synchronization.  

They are so fast at times; we wonder if we really saw them.  They may see us before we see them, announcing their presence with a call.  If we feed birds, they will honor us with their constant company.  In closing the narrative, we are reminded of another sense for locating birds.  We will be eager to try it the next time we step out-of-doors.

The easy conversational sentences penned by Jennifer Ward are an open invitation to readers to explore the world of birds.  Each hint is like a clue to unraveling a marvelous mystery.  When we are asked to do something, a readily understood explanation follows.  References are made for us to be as if we are birds in order to find them. Small poetic uses of language supply an easy cadence.  Here is a passage.

Quiet is good too.

So quiet you can hear

your heartbeat.


When you open the matching dust jacket and book case you are greeted with the lovely display of the tree, branches extending from flap edge to flap edge.  The white canvas provides an ideal background for portraying the birds as we would see them naturally.  The vibrant, full-color picture welcomes readers to open the book.

To the left, on the back, of the jacket and case the two children who journey through the book with us, are looking at the main tree, one with binoculars.  They are partially hidden by a large shrub which contains the ISBN.  Above them a Baltimore oriole is peering from its hanging nest at the children.

A fabulous pattern of bird homes, some made by humans, are carefully scattered on a white background.  Pinecones, nuts, leaves, and tiny, berry-covered branches are part of the design.  The use of muted primary colors is highly appealing.  On the title page a large owl is nestled against a tree trunk, seated on a branch.  The tree's branches stretch off the right and top and move across the gutter to the verso and dedication page, also stretching off the top.

These illustrations by Diana Sudyka rendered 

in watercolor, gouache on paper, and finished digitally

are rich in their settings, color choices, and portraits of the birds.  Each bird is labeled in tiny print looking as if hand lettered. Several perspectives are present in many of the images.  Nearly all the illustrations span two pages before shifting to several circular representations and two full-page pictures.  You will find yourself pausing at every page turn to study the details, even as you gasp in admiration at the beautiful two-page panoramas.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the text above noted.  It's night.  In the background is a charcoal gray sky replete with stars.  In silhouette just left of the gutter is a large tree with leafy branches spreading left and right across the gutter.  In front of the tree on the left is a grassy mound with a tree stump.  The children are quietly seated there.  In front of the grassy area is darkened water.  On the right, much closer to readers is a large sleeping swan.  Her neck is curved downward, her feathered wings gracefully moving upward and to the left across the gutter.  Nestled in her feathers are three babies, their downy fluff slightly darker than her white wings.

This book, How to Find a Bird written by Jennifer Ward with illustrations by Diana Sudyka, is outstanding in every respect with the text and visuals working to create a stunning whole.  At the close of the book under the heading of 

We can all be bird watchers!

are Tools and Tips, Create a Life List, and Become a Citizen Scientist with lots of information.  Jennifer Ward asks readers to visit her website 

for a list of books about birds and bird watching.

I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Jennifer Ward and Diana Sudyka and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Jennifer Ward has accounts on Facebook, and Twitter.  Diana Sudyka has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Enjoy the video.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Searching For The Night

Each month we observers of the night skies are given a gift.  This gift is courtesy of the moon who hides her glow in her new phase.  She goes dark so we can see the splendor of the starry expanses.  Constellations and paths of twinkling lights are a wondrous sight.

For those living in or near cities, even when the moon is new, they are unable to see all the night sky offers.  Even in the middle of the night, there are too many lights shining.  There are streetlights, lights from signs for businesses, and parking lot lights to name a few.  Lights Out (Creative Editions, August 18, 2020) written by Marsha Diane Arnold with illustrations by Susan Reagan addresses in an enchanting tale the real phenomenon of light pollution. 

Little Fox peeks out from her den.

Beetle flits above her.

"Lights out!" she barks.

But the lights stay on.

There is not a place Fox and Beetle look without light.  It is as if night and the darkness it brings have disappeared.  They decide Night is still somewhere, lost, but needs to be found.

The duo begins their search as Songbird struggles with the lack of darkness.  There is no map of stars for her to follow.  She joins the search.  Frog cannot begin his songs without darkness.  He leaps along with the others.

On the top of a mountain, Bear sees Fox, Beetle, Songbird and Frog seeking the Dark of Night.  Bear follows the others for reasons of his own.  There are lights everyplace they look.  No place it seems is untouched by light.  By and by, they arrive at the shore of the sea.

Here tiny turtles have hatched from their eggs.  They are not sure where to go.  The larger animals guide them toward the water.  Songbird and Beetle from the air encourage the babies to come to the sea.  And then . . . against the deeper dark waters in the darkening sky, a bit of magic happens.  Beetle has been harboring a secret.  In helping others to safety, the five creatures swim toward their hearts' desire.

Much like the pieces in a finely stitched quilt author Marsha Diane Arnold with each page turn in this title discloses a poetic portion of her story, moving toward a breathtaking conclusion.  Some conversation is blended in the descriptive observations.  Repetition figures in the rhythm, acting as a connection.  It is important to note darkness, dark, and night are written with a capital letter.  Marsha Diane Arnold makes them characters.  Here is a passage.

Where is Darkness? Where is Night,

where coyotes sing, owls hunt, and

birds fly across continents,

where foxes move through the dark

and beetles are more than beetles?

Muted, sepia-toned colors used throughout the book are introduced on the front, right side, of the open dust jacket.  Here, too, we meet the characters of Fox, Beetle, Songbird, Frog and Bear as they look for the Dark of the Night.  Notice Beetle, and a twig forming the "i" in the title.  To the left, on the back, Beetle, and the twig on horizontally positioned over the ISBN.  Above them on the canvas of cream, in a small circle, Beetle's secret is disclosed.  Continuing with the cream background and wide, brown spine, the book case features Beetle's secret on the back.  On the front the tiny turtles in a small image swim toward the white light of the moon.

On the opening and closing endpapers, still cream, tiny green turtles move from left to right searching for the sea. They begin in the lower, left-hand corner. The pattern is cleverly positioned so the turtles on the far right of the opening endpapers move from left to right on the closing endpapers.  The first turtle is close to the upper, right-hand corner of the closing endpapers.  On the title page, the illustration from the front of the dust jacket is used.

Each illustration by Susan Reagan is an exquisite depiction of setting and the individual characters.  You will find yourself pausing at each page turn to savor the details.  Multiple perspectives are shown in each scene.  The sizes of the images accentuate the narrative moving from single-page pictures to dramatic double-page visuals.  Light and shadow are masterfully portrayed.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the first mention of Frog.  It spans two pages.  In the foreground among reeds and water a group of frogs are still.  Frog is larger than the others and closer to the reader.  On the left a car shines its lights on the water.  On the water, behind the car, a boat glides forward shining a spotlight on the water.  From the left, across the gutter and to the far right is an arched bridge, cars traveling on the highway at its top, and streetlights like white globes evenly spaced glow.  Another boat on the far right, also shines a spotlight on the water.  (I also need to state I gasped at a two-page picture toward the end with a single word on the page.)

This book, Lights Out written by Marsha Diane Arnold with artwork by Susan Reagan is a plea to lessen light pollution, and a lyrical tribute to the Dark of Night.  In an author's note prior to the start of the narrative, Marsha Diane Arnold talks about light pollution, the Dark Sky Association, and International Dark-Sky Week.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

If you desire to learn more about Marsha Diane Arnold and Susan Reagan and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Marsha Diane Arnold has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Susan Reagan has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Last year Susan Reagan was interviewed about her work at Critter Lit.  Recently Marsha Diane Arnold was highlighted by author Jill Esbaum at PictureBookBuilders about this book.

Friday, August 14, 2020

While The World Sleeps

Picture books are powerful.  No matter your age, they can alter your perspectives, providing new information and changing what you know about people, places, and things.  They can initiate or grow your compassion, generosity, comprehension, courage, and capacity for love.  Most of all they supply us with the opportunity to connect with other people across the spectrum of ages, sharing moments of laughter, tears, hopes, fears, strengths, weaknesses, and lasting affection.

Of these books, some can give us scary shivers and silly laughter at the same time.  The newest title written and illustrated by Theodore Geisel Honor-winning Jonathan Fenske is one of those books.  As the first words in After Squidnight (Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, July 28, 2020) are read, listeners and readers alike, will seek cozy comfort.

The sky is black.

The clouds are inky.

The salty air

is still and stinky.

You are snug in your bed, unaware of what is about to happen.  Out on the sea, the squid are rising from the depths.  Slowly, as the midnight hour approaches, so do they on the sandy beaches.  Your dreams are unlike those of the squid.  They dream of drawings, drawings of ink.

These artists slither into your home, ready to leave their quirky shapely lines.  No cupboard or drawer in the kitchen is left unopened.  They give new meaning to artwork on the fridge.  Do they stay in the kitchen? No!

No space is safe from these clever creators.  They creep from place to place until they arrive in your bedroom.  Every item is a canvas for their designs, including your exposed skin and pajamas!  As sunlight slowly rises, they leave as quietly as they came.  

Your parents do not believe what you think you saw.  Your parents look at you, assuming you caused this inky chaos.  You get to work to eliminate the mess, but when all is finished you and the squid share a secret.

With appropriate spookiness author Jonathan Fenske fashions a nighttime fantasy featuring sea creatures intent on a mission.  Rhyming phrases move at the same pace as the wily squid accomplishing their descriptive activities. Punctuation, and even parentheses, further emphasize the pacing and page turns. 

But when you stir,

oh, how they scatter!

Their squiddy hearts


They wait in shadows,

big eyes blinking,

and pause their

squiddly-diddly inking . . .

The color palette, black, white, and turquoise, presented to readers on the open book case is used throughout the book.  The elements on the front of the case combine to give readers chills while at the same time making it impossible not to open this book.  There are questions needing answers.  Why are all the squid out of the sea?  Why are they slipping under the open window?  The moon and murky sky in the background are the perfect touch to the looks on those squid faces.  The title text is raised and varnished.  Other elements here and on the back are varnished.

On the back, within a frame made of the underside of a squid arm, is the book's blurb.  The introductory statement reads:

Pointy heads and arms of blue

will bring the inky art to you!

A single squid peers over the top of the frame.  Other squid arms flow to the left and the right.  

On the opening and closing endpapers is a repeating pattern of a large squid drawing a significant image on a wall.  It is a blue and black drawing on white.  The initial title page features the eerie title text.  The verso page includes some squid doodles.  A single squid crawls across the page from the left on the formal title page.

The images,

rendered on illustration board with #2 pencil and India ink

are double-page pictures, full-page pictures, and smaller insets.  The blend of black, white, and turquoise is skillfully presented; each used in the right amount to convey a certain mood.  The expressions on the faces of the squids are marvelous.  Their doodles are hilarious.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture.  A squid is in the bathtub.  On the tile surrounding the tub is a frightened fish, a shark, a palm tree (on the towel and wall), a jellyfish, and a snail.  In one squid arm we see it is holding a toothbrush with toothpaste on it.  This is a drawing on the bathmat.  Clothes and glasses have been drawn on a rubber ducky.  On the side of the tub is a man in a sailboat among waves.  He is pointing, mouth open in a shout, to a fin.

Every time I read this book, After Squidnight written and illustrated by Jonathan Fenske, I find myself smiling before I've even reached the second page.  The atmosphere the words and artwork conjure asks you to share this book widely and repeatedly.  You can expect requests of "read it again."  It also invites you to think about other animals leaving their natural habitat to explore and enjoy their favorite things.  I know you'll want a copy for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Jonathan Fenske and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Jonathan Fenske has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Up In Flames

Having grown up in the Midwest, most people are familiar with one particular tragic historical event.  In fact, it's probably covered in numerous classrooms throughout the United States for its significance as a life-changing disaster and for how people responded to it.  It lasted for more than thirty agonizing hours.

It happened in Chicago, Illinois in the month of October 1871.  History Comics: The Great Chicago Fire: Rising From The Ashes (First Second, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, June 30, 2020) written by Kate Hannigan with art by Alex Graudins is one of the first volumes in a new graphic novel series of narrative nonfiction.  You'll have to remind yourself to breathe as you race from one horrific moment to the next with siblings separated from their parents.  Facts are deftly woven into the thoughtful narrative and stellar artwork.

It's about eight o'clock p.m. on October 8, 1871 in Chicago, Illinois.  J.P. (John Patrick) and Franny are gathering rambunctious puppies who need to return with their visiting aunt and uncle,  Both the children's family and their neighbor Kate O'Leary are to receive a puppy when they are old enough to be separated from their mother.  As their relatives leave and the children do evening chores, there is the smell of smoke in the air.  To the children's dismay, they also discover one of the puppies has been left behind by their Aunt Maggie and Uncle Daniel.  They race after the retreating wagon trying to catch it.

There is currently a drought in the Midwest.  Prior to this Sunday, fire crews battled twenty-four fires in less than a week and they just completed an eighteen-hour shift.  To this day there are still discrepancies in whether the fire alarm call box was used in a timely manner.  By the time the alert is sounded, it is too late.  The fire is out of control.  The children cannot return home.

Crowds of people along with the children and the pup they've named Lucky are fleeing toward the business district.  They believe they will be safe on the other side of the river.  Rumors are already spreading about the cause of the fire.  Sentiments against the Irish, Catholics, and immigrants run high.  The most prevalent theory is the fire originated in Kate O'Leary's barn as she was milking her cow.  To everyone's horror the fire jumps the river.

It is as if the fire is alive chasing down victims.  Everyone regardless of their status or station in life is in peril.  Think about this---

At places, the fire stretched 1,000 feet wide and 100 feet high.

To add to the confusion the children are facing, Lucky escapes from J. P.'s grasp. (When J.P. finally finds Lucky, this affords us the opportunity to see the entire city on fire.) Prominent public places are being destroyed including the city's waterworks.  Suddenly there is no water, along with no gas for the city lights.  In darkness, people make their way toward Lake Michigan.  Like many tragedies, the Chicago Fire brings out the best and worst in people.  Franny and J.P. walked and searched for their parents among the multitude of homeless people all day Monday until they reached Lincoln Park late that evening.  Finally, it starts to rain.

In the subsequent pages we, through Franny and J.P., see how the city and the country respond to the fire and the city's inhabitants.  We are taken twenty-two years in the future to June 21, 1893 in an enlightening final twenty-two pages.  It is in the evening at the World's Columbian Exposition.  Through the extended families of J. P. and Franny we discover how building materials, architecture, engineering, the fire department and firemen are changed by the Great Chicago Fire.  We are also privy to the wonders present at the World Columbian Exposition.

Regardless of the number of times you read this book, you are fascinated, and captivated each and every time.  Kate Hannigan, through meticulous research, presents a gripping story with conversations between the characters and other residents of the city.  During the course of these conversations and encounters, historical figures are introduced with additional information about them.  At various points during the events, in keeping with the flow of the story, more facts are presented about conditions before the fire, how fire alarms were sounded, prejudice against certain groups, different theories about the fire's origination, how Mrs. O'Leary and her cow were stigmatized, then and in the future, specific buildings and their collapse and the response from people everywhere, even Queen Victoria and the people of Britain.  The details Kate Hannigan includes in the portion about the World Columbian Exposition are impressive.  Here is a passage with conversation and historical additions.

We've got to find Lucky's mother soon.  He's gone too long without milk.

Don't worry, Franny, surely the worst is---


. . .behind us?

Trying to contain the blaze, the mayor okayed Civil War veteran General Philip Sheridan to blow up strategic buildings in the fire's path.

Winds whipped the flames, and the fire advanced anyway.

Featuring the children above the title banner with the blazing fire beneath them is certain to grab readers' attention.  Careful readers will see Lucky tucked inside J. P.'s shirt.  The facial expressions on the children convey the urgency of their situation.  This is the first glimpse we get into the historically accurate look at the buildings, and period clothing depicted throughout the book.  To the left, on the back, is an interior image of J. P. looking down from atop a building at the expanse of the blaze.  On my paperback copy, this is where the blurb is placed.

A double-page image in sepia tones gives readers a bird's eye view of the city, fire, and Lake Michigan on the title page.  Several wordless horizontal panels on two pages begin the visual interpretation by artist Alex Graudins.  Page turn by page turn the panels vary in size to accentuate the pacing of the narrative.  Sometimes an added image will be inserted within another illustration for clarification. At times a single illustration will be shown in several panels.  Other times portions of newspapers or posters or maps are shown.

 Conversations are displayed in speech bubbles.  The extra historical facts are placed on old-looking paper along the top or bottom of an image.  Sound effects, body postures, and looks on the characters' faces add to the emotions of each minute.

One of my many, many favorite images is a half-page panel at the bottom of a page.  It shows Franny and J. P. walking among a crowd of people from various ethnic and social backgrounds.   Some are carrying the only possessions they managed to save.  In the distance you can see smoke and flames.  In the lower, right-hand corner a man with a chicken on his shoulder is saying:

We'll never stay ahead of the fire devils!

This is shown in a speech bubble which breaks a white frame drawn around his upper body and head to draw our attention to him.

You'll want to plan on having multiple copies of History Comics: The Great Chicago Fire: Rising From The Ashes written by Kate Hannigan with art by Alex Graudins for your professional collections.  Readers will reread this and then pass it to other readers.  For history connoisseurs, this is a must-have title for your personal bookshelves.  At the close of the book is an author's note, timeline, map of the city today with marked places of interest, an article titled Great Fire Sites to Visit in Chicago Today, and another titled Fast Facts About Chicago & the Great Fire and a bibliography and resources including books, museums, newspapers, and websites.

To learn more about Kate Hannigan and Alex Graudins and their other work, please access their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Kate Hannigan has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Alex Graudins has accounts on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view multiple interior images.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Clever Conversations With Companions

Each time you step out into the world, you're never quite sure what you will see, smell, taste, touch or hear. You're never quite sure who you will meet. It's a step taken with a sense of adventure laden with anticipation.  There is always the chance of the extraordinary happening.  

When you are greeted with something marvelous, you will silently watch, storing it in your memories to replay in the future.  Curious EnCOUNTers: 1 to 13 Forest Friends (Little Bigfoot, an imprint of Sasquatch Books, August 4, 2020) written by Ben Clanton with illustrations by Jessixa Bagley is about a girl whose exploration of a forest yields wondrous word play. Fortunately for us, she shares the experience.

Off we go for a walk through
the woods!  I wonder where
the trail will lead and what
we'll see along the way.

So begins a magical numerical journey from one through thirteen.  Each meeting reveals animals in action with accompanying conversations.  First, we meet a moose with directorial ambitions.  In fact, he is making a


A duo of raccoons exhibit contrasting behaviors; one continuing with musical inclinations and the other a book worm.  Closer inspection displays a trio of slugs engaged in the pursuit of beverage goodness.  A foursome constructs a residence above ground while wolves engage in knitting wool supplied by a sheep.  

The next group of animals, numbering six, might be wearing clothing shaped by the previous wolves.  Beavers are busy, but not from building dams.  On the water, you'll find a strange pack paddling around in vessels destined to tip if they are not careful.  There are continued antics on the water courtesy of resident rascals.

What do you think ten bears are using as transportation along the shore?  They might be on their way to listen to or watch watery inhabitants perform.  Above this, seagulls swoop.  As the story comes to its conclusion, the girl quietly notices the results of her trek through the forest.

As soon as the girl sees the first animal, we know author Ben Clanton will be entertaining us at every page turn. Alliteration is masterfully used with various parts of speech in each of the numbered statements.  The commentary by the animals uses language artfully.  You'll find puns, homonyms, and rhyming.  Here is a partial passage.

Seven beavers
baking bread.

We're on
a roll!

This bread will be
even butter than 

Readers will be instantly enamored of the animal depictions by artist Jessixa Bagley.  The fine lines, intricate details, animated postures, and expressive facial features welcome you to participate in their activities.  The happiness they exhibit through a full-color palette and softly textured backgrounds is contagious.  On the front of the book case are animals normally found in a forest.  To the left, on the back, are those one might see in the water (with one exception).  The text here reads:

Find some friends you can
COUNT on for fun in this curious
collection of creatures!

The orca is saying:

It's been a whale since
I've laughed so much!

On the opening and closing endpapers are brightly colored numbers one through thirteen.  On the closing endpapers, on the right side, is information about Ben Clanton and Jessixa Bagley you might find on the back flap of a dust jacket.  On the title page two different animal companions are speaking the title in speech balloons, like on the front of the book case.  The dedications and publication information are placed on the final image.  The girl is engaged in an activity to remember these enchanting moments of the day.

Each page turn reveals a double-page picture.  In the first one the point of view is as if we are walking beside the girl.  The other images vary in perspective depending on the size of the animals.  In the final illustration, it is as if we are watching the girl from above her seated position.  

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for 

Five wolves
weaving wool.

The wolves are working in a grassy landscape with taller grass on the left and thicker grass on the right.  In the lower left-hand corner, a sweater-wearing sheep is carrying two bags of wool.  One reads


and the other reads


To the right of the sheep a seated wolf is nearly encased in a red scarf being knitted by another wolf wearing a ski hat.  The red wool for this is coming from a large rolled ball of yarn.  Crossing the gutter and moving to the right is a wolf on a stool spinning wool.  Several tufts of wool are in a basket nearby. Another wolf, seated on a stool, is holding yarn stretched between its paws as the final wolf, seated on a log, knits a tiny sweater with a red heart in its center. Everyone is smiling, even the sheep.  Not only is this image delightful but it is also humorous (as are many of the other visuals).

This book, Curious EnCOUNTers: 1 to 13 Forest Friends written by Ben Clanton with illustrations by Jessixa Bagley, is read aloud gold.  It asks you to read it more than once; initially sharing the statements and then following with the commentary on the second read.  It inspires you to write your own commentary for each of the animal groups.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Ben Clanton and Jessixa Bagley and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Ben Clanton has accounts on Facebook, InstagramTwitter and YouTube.  Jessixa Bagley has accounts on Instagram, and Twitter.  Ben Clanton was recently interviewed at KidLit411.  At Penguin Random House you can view interior images.

Monday, August 10, 2020

We Must Care

 If it were not for the reminder tweets by founding educators Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek, I might have been rushing to get my list ready in time for the annual event of Picture Book Ten For Ten.  Each year readers gather ten (or more) picture books they feel best define a theme.  In 2020 we will be adding links to Mandy Robek's blog.  You can access her blog by following the link embedded in her name. 

 Over the course of my participation in this celebration I've centered on themes of the alphabet, dogs, counting and number books, bedtime, sleep and sweet dreams, robots as main characters, friendship, and bees.  Last year my focus was on books featuring grandmothers and grandfathers.  Links to all the previous posts are in last year's post.

Prior to this writing I had another theme chosen, but the news this week about a portion of the Milne Ice Shelf, in Ellesmere Island, Canada falling away due to climate change makes the peril our planet is facing even more pressing.  The size of the lost ice was greater than that of Manhattan in New York City.  I have chosen titles reflecting ways to protect, preserve, and appreciate our Earth.  They are listed in order of publication date, and then alphabetical by title.  You can find more about each title by following the link attached to it.

1. It began in the most populated city on the continent of Australia thirteen years ago.  It was a single event lasting sixty minutes.  It was an act of faith in people and hope for our planet by its organizers. One year later countries on all seven continents participated.  By 2009 it broke

all records of mass participation, becoming the world's largest grassroots movement for the environment.

This year, 2020, Earth Hour will be celebrated on March 28th, 8:30 PM local time, wherever you live.  Debut picture book author Nanette Heffernan and debut picture book illustrator Bao Luu collaborate to bring readers Earth Hour: A Lights-Out Event for Our Planet (Charlesbridge, January 21, 2020).  It reflects the use of energy in places around the world, the Earth Hour event and how each individual can contribute to the conservation of energy not only on this one day, but on every day of the year.

All over the world, millions of people use energy, every day, every night.

2.  From the sun she is third, sustaining life for all.  For this she is to be cherished.  My Friend Earth (Chronicle Books, February 25, 2020) written by Patricia MacLachlan with illustrations by Francesca Sanna is a love letter to our planet.  The text and images, with flaps and die-cuts, work in marvelous unity.

My friend Earth wakes
from a winter nap.

3. On March 3, 2020 another book was released with a focus on our Blue Planet.  One EARTH (Worthy Kids) written by Eileen Spinelli with illustrations by Rogerio Coelho is a special counting book.  In a rhyming poetic intonation with sweeping cheerful images readers are reminded of the spectacular beauty of our home and how we can honor her.
One wide, sweeping sky.
Two honeybees. 

4.  With millions and millions of people around the world currently confined to their homes under a quarantine or because of isolation, the appeal of the outdoor world and being a part of it has more allure than ever.  Why is it we don't fully appreciate the value of something until it's no longer readily available?  During this time some will be able to go solo in parks or designated walkways or neighborhoods, some will dream of days when nature will envelope them again, others will recall countless adventures in the outdoors, and many can travel within the pages of a book.  HIKE (Candlewick Press, March 17, 2020) conceived and illustrated by Pete Oswald is a nearly wordless trek into the best nature has to offer.  

5.  Having lived near many different small lakes and rivers or one of the Great Lakes in Michigan for more than sixty-eight years, I have witnessed their splendor and their challenges due to the careless hands of humans.  We Are Water Protectors (Roaring Brook Press, March 17, 2020) written by Carole Lindstrom (Anishinaabe/Metis and tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe) with illustrations by Michaela Goade (of Tlingit descent and tribally enrolled with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska) is powerful in both words and artwork.  It speaks to the fierce dedication of Indigenous Peoples to guard our water and invites everyone to stand strong against those who wish to do it harm.

Water is the first medicine, Nokomis told me.

6. From a true story comes The Bear's Garden (Imprint, a part of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, March 24, 2020) written by Marcie Colleen with illustrations by Alison Oliver.  Through the imagination of a child a dream takes shape.  Through an accident and efforts of many, this dream becomes a reality.

IN THE BIG, BUSTLING CITY, all the people were busy. 

7. Although in northern Michigan at the moment snow is swirling in high winds, for months collective minds here and in other parts of the world have been turning to gardening. Seeds and soil have been gathered.  On warmer days, walks have revealed shoots from bulbs pushing through the dirt and perennials are starting to turn green as buds get larger.  In My Garden (Neal Porter BooksHoliday House, March 24, 2020) written by the late Charlotte Zolotow (1915-2013) with illustrations by Philip Stead is a journey through the seasons.  It is a shared trip through time and the offerings Nature bestows on all of us if we choose to notice.

IN THE SPRING what I love best in my garden
are the birds building nests. 

8.  In his newest brilliant artistic entry in children literature, author illustrator Henry Cole does not disappoint.  The conception and illustration of One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey (Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., April 7, 2020) is a wordless display of transformation.  It is a loving tribute to people, their lives and their love of each other and our Earth.

Prior to the title page, Henry Cole in a series of framed single-page pictures, horizontal and vertical panels and two large double-page pictures, takes us through the process of making paper from logged timber to large rolls of paper to the delivery of boxes of paper bags and to the use of a single bag at a small community market. We follow one particular tree through the use of spot color as it makes its way from the forest, to a logging truck, to the paper mill, the processes at the mill, and the packing of one paper bag among hundreds in a box.  The final two-page image before the title page is an amazing display of the interior of a small grocery store highly stocked with all kinds of items.  People walk on wooden floors with carts laden with their groceries.  At the counter is a boy and his father and the brown-colored paper bag.

9.  When we venture into the outdoors, whether at a national or state park or designated forest, we are temporarily residents with the wild.  There are detriments to this adventure but the advantages, even brief moments, can last a lifetime.  The Camping Trip (Candlewick Press, April 14, 2020) written and illustrated by Jennifer K. Mann shadows Ernestine as she goes camping for the first time. It's an experience she and readers will long remember.

MY AUNT JACKIE invited me to go camping with her and my cousin Samantha this weekend, and my dad said yes!

10.  Our rewards from Nature are proportionate to the attention we give it.  The more we look, the more we see.  Every detail is a delightful discovery.

In her newest release, A New Green Day (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, April 14, 2020), Antoinette Portis asks us to think about alternate descriptions for that which is familiar.  Through her words and illustrations, magic happens.

"Morning lays me on your pillow, an invitation, square and warm.
Come out and play!"

Who is speaking in these first two sentences?  With a page turn we realize we have been welcomed to participate in a guessing game with elements found in Nature.  Sunlight is talking first.

10 +1.  Never has it been more apparent than the beginning of 2020 how vital the outside world is to all living things.  We humans, if not previously so appreciative, are now.  We recognize the value of embracing what has been so freely present.  The urgency of preserving and protecting it is heightened.  

In their first collaboration author Deborah Underwood and illustrator Cindy Derby work to show readers the allure of what we find beyond the four walls of our homes.  Outside In (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 14, 2020) looks at the benefits of becoming one with the world around us.  It awakens memories of the past bringing it to the present.

we were part of Outside
and Outside was part of us.