Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

In The Darkness . . .Delight

Over the decades of having canine companions, you become accustomed to taking treks at all hours of the night in every season of the year.  In the spring, you are the first to note the sound of peepers in a nearby pond.  During summer nights, you are fortunate to find moths fluttering within the beam of light cast by your flashlight.  It's easy to startle forging rabbits or wandering deer during autumn.  The night skies with their profusion of stars in the crystal air of winter are breathtaking 

Darkness reveals its secrets to curious observers.   Night Walk to the Sea: A Story About Rachel Carson, Earth's Protector (Schwartz & Wade Books, September 15, 2020) written by Deborah Wiles with art by Daniel Miyares is based upon a blending of several true events taken from the writings of Rachel Carson.  You will find yourself easily stepping into this story, captivated by the lyrical words and atmospheric images.

It was bedtime in Rachel's cabin
in the woods,
when thunder BOOMED and
the storm roared in.

"I'm not afraid!" shouted Roger.
CRAAAAACK! the thunder answered.

Roger was hardly ready for bed acting like he was the monstrous storm.  Rachel joined him in his romping around the room.  Suddenly, the lights went out.  They were plunged into the darkest dark.  Roger still claimed to be unafraid.  This time it was not true.

After reassuring him of his safety, Rachel lighted a lantern and cuddled with him near a window so they could marvel at the storm. Roger was still not happy in the dark.  When the storm subsided, Rachel suggested they go for a walk.

Both bundled up in stormy weather gear, they set off toward the sea.  Their flashlights gave off a special glow to the woods around them.  Rachel encouraged Roger to listen, look, and learn from what he saw.  Soon they were at the shore.

Roger raced along the sand spooking birds and ghost crabs.  Shortly, Rachel whispered to him, and asked him to turn off his light and close his eyes.  When he opened them, the sea was coated in sparkling gemstone colors. This was when, looking at his feet, Roger saw another wondrous sight.  With Rachel's guidance a rescue was performed, and they returned to the cabin.  A nighttime adventure will be remembered by one little boy and many other readers, with gratitude to Earth's Protector.

Through her reading about Rachel Carson and her own love of the wonders nature holds for all of us, author Deborah Wiles again demonstrates her masterful ability to glean treasures from the past and portray them with lyrically presented truth to her readers.  This narrative is more intimate for us with the inclusion of possible dialogue between Rachel and her great-nephew and adopted son, Roger.  The descriptions of the storm, the landscape, and the sensory experience are both soothing and reverent and exciting and astonishing.  Here is another passage.

They walked past the cinnamon ferns
and reindeer moss
and the drip-drip-drip of glittery raindrops
on the tips of the shiny leaves
that were washed in moonlight.
Their flashlights bobbed cones of yellow light ahead of them.

From left to right on the open and matching dust jacket and book case readers are presented with a portrait of the misty walk toward the sea.  On the left, back, darkness nearly hides the ferns and leaves stretching from the ground.  A single firefly floats above them.  The text here reads:

As the soft dark folded itself around then,
and the sea called out to them like a lullaby,
Roger and Rachel breathed in the salty sea air . . . together.

On the front with their flashlights guiding them down the path, the affection between the two is evident.  Look how Roger leans toward Rachel and she bends to him. The expressions on their faces here, and throughout the book, mirror every emotion.  As your eyes move past them, you can see the delicate details included in this image.  Can you see the cricket, the dragonfly and the raindrops on the trees?

The opening and closing endpapers are colored in flashlight-glow yellow.  On the title page we gaze at a panoramic view of the storm clouds hanging over the cabin tucked in the woods by the sea.  The only light in the scene is from the front window in the cottage.

Each visual by artist Daniel Miyares was

rendered with ink on paper.

From the smaller pictures on the end flaps, to the dramatic double-page images, and the lovely full-page pictures (several only seen from the glow of a lantern), we share in each moment with Roger and Rachel.  The use of shadow and light in focusing our attention on specific portions of an illustration are breathtaking.

When you pause to look at the illustrations your eyes discover all the wonders Rachel and Roger do.  You see the beauty of the forest trees and ferns after the thunderstorm as they walk.  You look up as they do to see an owl resting in the hollow of a tree.  You get down low with Roger as he peers at frogs and insects pausing on blades of grass. 

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture, a bird's eye view of Rachel and Roger as they arrive at the shore.  From left to right is a swirl of darkness with some light from the now shining moon illuminating the laurel and blueberry bushes.  The pathway and stairs are clearly visible.  On the far right, tiny figures, flashlights casting light in front of them, walk toward the sandy beach.  You want to be there with them.  You want to be a part of this grand depiction.

This book, Night Walk to the Sea: A Story About Rachel Carson, Earth's Protector written by Deborah Wiles with artwork by Daniel Miyares, is an engaging request for readers to meet Rachel and Roger and to welcome us into our majestic natural world.  Now, more than ever, we need to seek, and see the world around us, so we can assist in protecting and preserving it for the future inhabitants.  At the close of the book, Deborah Wiles speaks in a section titled:

A Note About Rachel Carson
and This Story.

She also includes a discussion about bioluminescence, selected titles written by Rachel Carson and those written about her.  Her acknowledgements are highly informative, too.  I highly recommend this title for all your collections.

To discover more about Deborah Wiles and Daniel Miyares, and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Deborah Wiles has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Daniel Miyares has accounts on InstagramTwitter, and YouTube.  At the Penguin Random House Education you can view interior images.  

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the selections this week by participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.  I believe her post will appear later this week.

Cow-tastic Creations

They are the original dairy queens.  More than eight thousand years ago, humans believed it was in their best interest to have them become a part of their world.  To this day, they continue to provide valuable food ingredients, especially for many people's favorite dessert or comfort food, ice cream.

Cows are beloved for their nature.  In a variety of fabricated forms, they are often children's (or collector's) favorite animal finding places on shelves or as stuffed toys to cuddle for comfort or rest.  Perhaps as characters for storytellers, they are able to linger longer in our hearts.  Two recent publications feature cows in all their bovine glory.  Mootilda's Bad Mood (Little Bee Books, September 1, 2020) written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call with illustrations by Claudia Ranucci takes readers on an emotional adventure as one cow youngster wakes up cranky and gets crankier by the incident.

Mootilda woke up in a huff
with hay stuck in her hair.
"What's going on? My pillow's gone.
My doll's way over there!"

Her mother tried to calm her with a treat, but her bad luck and mood escalated.  Mootilda exploded in distress.  Her moomaw thought it would be best if she went outside to join the other cows at play.  Her lack of skill caused even more dismay.

Her friends, like her mother, suggested another remedy for her irritable attitude.  Unfortunately, her dive in the pond was more thwack than swan.  The sheep and pigs offered encouragement along with advice, but nothing worked on this cow's crabby demeanor.  

Believing she is cursed, Mootilda ranted until the chickens took up a chant.  Their day was worse.  Now Mootilda and the chickens were fretting together to the max, until Mootilda decided to use her moomaw's remedy to relax.

They were all enjoying ice cream in cones when another feathered friend made an error in judgment.  Mootilda was shocked, but then she surprised everyone, including herself.  Moody Mootilda discovered what was always there.

One thing is absolutely certain, authors Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call must have laughed themselves silly writing this text.  It's bursting with rhyming and word play.  If a word can be shifted just a bit to include something relating to cows (or another one of the farm crew), it finds a place in their story.

Readers will appreciate the upbeat outlook of the other farm animals with the exception of the chickens.  This supplies the opportunity for contrast with Mootilda's bad mood.  Here is a passage.

"I'm in a bad MOOOD!"

"Hay hay there now, don't have a cow!
We'll get this mess remoooved.
A sooothing swim will cool you down.
Your moood will soon improoove!"

When you look at the matching and open dust jacket and book case, beginning with the front, right, you can't help but laugh.  One glance at the thunderous look on Mootilda's face and you know this cow is having a really bad day.  The swirl of darkness above her head is perfection and a great design choice for the text.  The title text is raised on the jacket.

To the left, on the back, is a similar illustration to one found in the interior of the book.  Mootilda is mooing her discontent along with the clucking cantankerous chickens.  They stand in the sandy barnyard with rolling hills, a fence, and other farm buildings in the distance.  The text reads:

"We're in a bad MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!"

On the opening and closing endpapers are six moods of Mootilda on a white background.  Each is washed in a rainbow color with connecting rainbow dotted lines.  The moods are not happy.  On the title page Mootilda is upright stomping her back hooves in frustration as she waves her arms overhead.

Each image by Claudia Ranucci accentuates the narrative alternating in size and perspective.  We might find ourselves looking at a full-page picture, several smaller visuals on a single page, or dramatic double-page illustrations.  Sometimes we are seeing a panoramic pastoral view.  Other times we are very close to the characters, especially Mootilda.  Readers will find themselves giggling or laughing out loud with every page turn when they see the expressions on the animals' faces.  Careful viewers will understand why the chickens are having a less than stellar day.

One of my many favorite illustrations is the first double-page picture.  Mootilda is declaring her state of emotion to her moomaw in the kitchen in the morning.  The force of her exclamation blows utensils and a canister off the counter.  The cookie jar is overturned, and cookies go flying.  Family portraits on the wall are now crooked.  The refrigerator and cupboards are pink.  Cow drawings hang on the fridge.  Mootilda's stuffed toy cow is on the floor, forgotten for the moment.

It's perfectly normal to be grumpy from time to time.  In Mootilda's Bad Mood written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Kirsti Call with illustrations by Claudia Ranucci, we see how incidents sometimes happen not as desired, but our perspective can make all the difference.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  

To learn more about Corey Rosen Schwartz, Kirsti Call, and Claudia Ranucci, and their other work, please follow the link attached to their name to access their website or their agency's website.  It appears that Claudia Ranucci has a website in Spanish, linked here.  Corey Rosen Schwartz has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Kirsti Call has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Claudia Ranucci has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  There are also interior images to see at Simon & Schuster.  This book and its creators are featured on Picture Book Look.  Author Kirsti Call is highlighted at Book Q &As with Deborah Kalb, at author Vivian Kirkfield's site, and at GROG.

When cherished collaborators return, we cheer.  In a companion title to Holy Cow, I Sure Do Love You! author illustrator Tom Lichtenheld and the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal return with an ode to the affection between a parent and child.  Moo-Moo, I Love You! (Abrams Books for Young Readers, September 22, 2020) is moo-velous in every respect.  

Moo-moo, I love you.

I love you no matter your moo-d.

In all six named moods from good to bad, and sad to silly and two in-between, this child knows they are loved.  This mom loves to share things with her child, food, funny jokes, and dancing to their special music.  Best of all, this mom thinks their refrigerator door, and sides, is a 


Like moms everywhere, this mom loves to see her child enjoying the company of friends as they wait for the school bus.  She notices how her child has the gift of gab, and that of being a good listener.  She continues with a statement regarding the size of her love for her child.

She compares it to being as big as a moose!  The child is astonished.  That's a lot of love.  (The moose needs to be encouraged to move.)

Mom and cow child begin a long journey because there isn't anything this mom won't do to show her love.  They might, if it is a long trip, get assistance from a farmer's hay truck.  At day's end, this mom closes with a universal sign of affection, a promise to recreate a nursery rhyme, and the best phrase in the whole, wide world.

The words in this lovable volume penned by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld place a heavy, hilarious emphasis on the word moo.  It's popcorn at the 




with friends.

With each page turn, we anticipate another round of word play, and we are not disappointed.  The child gets in the last word as they are being carried to bed.

When you open the dust jacket you are immediately drawn to the red on the front, right.  These are the colors you see throughout the book, black and white, and splashes of red with spot color in other hues.  (The illustrations within the book are placed on heavy, matte-finished brown paper.)  The title text on the jacket is textured and varnished.  The mother and child are varnished as is the pink heart on top of their heads.

To the left, on the back, four moods of the child are shown, two on the top and two on the bottom beneath the words:

A book for those you love, no matter their moo-d.

The book case is black and white, like a close-up of the cows' bodies.  The opening and closing endpapers on brown are patterned with a splattering of tiny red hearts.  These surround the mother and child doing a variety of dance moo-ves.

Prior to the double-page picture for the title page is a full page where the book owner can place their name under

This book belongs to-moo:

The title spans both pages.  On the left, the mother's upper body and head are under the o and v in love.  The child, on the right, is placed under the y and o in you.

For every page turn, Tom Lichtenheld has a heavier black frame around two pages, as if drawn in crayon.  The illustrations within these frames were rendered

with Pentel brush pen on watercolor paper, with Photoshop color.  Digital tweakage by Kristen Cella.  

Heavy expressive lines convey every moment found in the narrative.  The facial expressions on the child in its moods are hilarious.  Tiny details add to the comedy such as the youngster holding a tiny teddy bear when their moo-d is worried.

Tom Lichtenheld adds wonderful elements to each image.  The cookie jar on top of the refrigerator is patterned like a cow's black and white body.  Every time there is a double o, they are solid black.  Careful readers will wonder about the full title of the book the mother is holding at bedtime.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the mother and child are dancing.  On the left side with the text is a turntable on a record stand with speakers on either side on the floor.  Sound bursts from the speakers.  On the right, the two cows, with eyes closed in contentment, have one foot up in mid-dance move with swaying arms.  The younger one is singing to the music with notes moving up and left to the top center of the left side.

Uplifting and joyful, Moo-Moo, I Love You! written by Tom Lichtenheld and the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal with art by Tom Lichtenheld is a book to read each and every day.  It is to be shared.  It is to be gifted.  No collection would be complete without the happiness of this title.

To learn more about Amy Krouse Rosenthal the link attached to her name is her original website.  For further information about her please visit The Amy Krouse Rosenthal Foundation website.  The link attached to Tom Lichtenheld's name will acquaint you with his work.  He also maintains accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  You can view interior images at the publisher's website.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Shaping Our Place In Society

From the time we first enter this world, until we exit, we are, by tiny steps or great leaps, a growing part of a glorious whole.  Whether we act alone, or with others, we are striving to not only find our place in society, but to help others find their place.  We protect.  We preserve.

If the last few years, specifically this year, have taught us nothing else, from this collection of days we know to take nothing for granted.  We know deep gratitude.  We know we cannot be silent, except when it is necessary to fuel our determined actions.  

Within the last two months four special books with a common theme have been released.  Each provides us with information, guidance, and inspiration.  They, individually and together, work as a means for discussions.  V Is For Voting (Henry Holt And Company, July 21, 2020) written by Kate Farrell with illustrations by Caitlin Kuhwald is an alphabet book designed to explain how each individual can make a difference.  It's an invitation we cannot refuse.

A is for active participation.
B is for building a more equal nation.

The next two letters focus on citizenship and our diversity.  It is followed by the need for all of us to be involved.  It is important to keep informed by a free press.  Our government is not only about leading the people but offering guidance.  H speaks to the truth of lands lost to occupation.  

Each person has a purpose, beginning in our communities.  As we pass the middle of the alphabet, we are reminded that each vote is important.  We cannot forget those who paved the way for a better life for future generations.

We need to have goals and stick to those goals, even if it means protesting.  We need to seek answers to our questions and hold those who represent us accountable. Education by 

talented teachers

gives us facts, and the ability to gather additional facts.  

Each time we vote, we are gaining ground toward change for the good.  Each time we vote, we exercise our rights.  Each time we vote, our voice is heard.

The strength of each statement for each letter is like a symphony building toward a crescendo.  Kate Farrell increases our participation in her narrative by rhyming the final word in each pair of letters. Sometimes, she will add another short sentence to the first to fashion the rhyme. Each sentence begins with the letter followed by is for.  Here is another couplet for a single letter.

S is for suffrage---the right to vote.
This fight is ongoing, not history's footnote.

When you open the cover (I am working with an F & G.  My copy has not yet arrived.), the colorful, bold images of illustrator Caitlin Kuhwald are an ideal complement to the text. Her focus on using red, white, and blue, and diverse people is a realistic nod to our country.  The girl, front and center, is shown, as are some of the other people, throughout the book. 

To the left, on the back, two other children are featured protesting.  The boy is holding a sign which reads:


To his right the girl has extended her left arm, fingers holding up the peace sign.

On the opening and closing endpapers are rows and rows of boxes.  In between the black boxes are hearts, stars and peace signs in shades of red.  Many of the boxes have a red x through them to indicate voting.  This design is placed on a cream background.

Throughout the book, the image sizes shift from single-page pictures, edge to edge, to double-page pictures, edge to edge.  For many of them two letters are used in a single illustration.  We see mixed-race families, people of different religious beliefs, and single-parent families.  Historical figures are used as examples with particular statements. In all the people's faces, readers will see calm, but resolve.

One of my favorite illustrations is a full-page image.  It features the neck and chin, torso, and one hand of a distinctive individual.  This beloved person is wearing a black robe with a white lace collar.  Their hand is over their heart.  It interprets these words:

J is for judges.  They're meant to be fair.
To be neutral, unbiased, objective, they swear.

Every collection, personal and professional, will want to have a copy of V Is For Voting written by Kate Farrell with illustrations by Caitlin Kuhwald.  Now, more than ever, all ages need to make educated decisions and exercise their right to vote.  At the close of the book is a short author's note and five discussions about the people highlighted in the letters G, N, S, T and U.  There is also A VOTING RIGHTS TIMELINE.

To learn more about illustrator Caitlin Kuhwald and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Caitlin Kuhwald has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view a series of interior images including the final two pages.

Every day we read or hear about the achievements of a single person.  We are encouraged by the power of their deeds regardless of the size of those deeds or the size or age of the person.  They make us brave.   The POWER of ONE: Every Act of Kindness Counts (Alfred A. Knopf, August 25, 2020) written by Trudy Ludwig with illustrations by Mike Curato is a beautiful portrait of change.

Sometimes One can feel like
a small and lonely number.

But don't let this little number fool you. 

It only takes one person to reach out to another person who needs comfort or support.  Beginnings start with one.  With this one, change is shaped.

One person listens.  One person smiles.  This is the start of connected hearts.

This one being can invite other people to listen and smile, comfort and show support.  Working together heals our souls, those injured and those who caused injury.  Extended warmth and heartfelt ideas make bridges linking more generous hearts.

We need to acknowledge and remember the miracle of a single seed.  Together these single seeds can feed physical and emotional hunger.  This is 


The words written by Trudy Ludwig in this story read like a poem.  Her spare, truthful text makes profound statements and supplies examples in support of those statements.  They also allow us to think between each page turn, imagining how these apply to our own lives.  Her repetition of the word one, is, like the word, powerful.  Here is another sentence.

One warm hug . . .

can lift our spirits up when
we're feeling down.

The front of the open dust jacket not only signifies the implications of the title, but hints at images to come in the body of the book.  The flower and its seeds are important.  Can you see the outline of other people in the glowing background?  To the left, on the back, is a depiction of the child on the front, seated on the ground, after cruel words hurt her.  The first, one, girl to comfort her is kneeling next to her.  This image is beneath the words:

One is the starting point for change.

Beneath the illustration are two endorsements.

On the book case artist Mike Curato shows us a close-up picture of a lush garden, full of leaves, ferns, pods, and fronds.  They are in shades of blues and greens.  Rising and curling from the right side of the spine is a single stem with a red and open flower on it.  Small sparkles in white come from the center.

The opening and closing endpapers are a cheery yellow.  Prior to the title page a wordless image tells the tale of verbal injury with a single soul watching.  Another two-page picture continues this tale for the title page.

On heavy, matte-finished paper  

using pencil, colored pencil, gouache, watercolor, paper, digital color, and photo collage

Mike Curato makes a mix of colorful elements and those in tones of black and gray.  This brings our attention to the main characters and his visual interpretation of the story.  He alternates between more panoramic views to those close to the people.  Sometimes a single item fills the page or captures our attention because it is alone in a larger context.  

The single flower growing as a symbol of friendship, apology, and forgiveness is wonderful.  The continued growth of the garden shows how one can multiple into many.  Many readers will see themselves in the children, from diverse races, highlighted here.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is for the passage above noted.  It spans two pages.  On the left is an enormous garden filled with blue and green leaves of all varieties.  From this garden a single stem has expanded to include three large red flowers and a smaller red one.  The largest flower blooms from the stem to the right of the gutter.  Inside the girl is being given a hug by the boy who hurt her, and she is hugging him back.  Under and to the right of them, another girl is smelling the tiny flower.

We have a choice to hurt and to heal.  The POWER of ONE: Every Act of Kindness Counts by Trudy Ludwig with illustrations by Mike Curato is a lovely example in words and artwork of the art of healing.  It presents to readers loving possibilities.  At the close of the book is a letter from Trudy Ludwig titled Planting Seeds of Kindness in Your Community.  It is followed by Recommended Books for Young Readers and Recommended Websites.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Trudy Ludwig and Mike Curato and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Trudy Ludwig has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Mike Curato has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.

It happened the day after our forty-fifth president was inaugurated.  It was January 21, 2017.  At this time, it is the largest single day event, a protest, in United States history.  It is called The Women's March 2017. Based upon a true story Love Is Powerful (Candlewick Press, September 8, 2020) written by Heather Dean Brewer with illustrations by LeUyen Pham follows a little girl as she and her mother get ready to show the world how strong love is.

Mari spilled her crayons onto the
table.  They made a messy rainbow.

"What are we coloring, Mama?"
she asked.

Mama smiled.  "A message for the

Mari was concerned how the world would hear their message.  It's a huge place.  Her mother said 

love is powerful.

Mama wrote words on one poster, too small, Mari thought for the world to see.  On her sign, thinking of her family and friends, Mari wrote her message, the words of her mother.  

Wearing coats to warm them in the cold, the duo left their apartment, going down on the elevator to the street below.  There, they joined a crowd of people.  Again, Mari was concerned people could not hear their message in all this noise.

Soon, Mama lifted Mari to her shoulders.  From there Mari saw the sea of people stretching beyond her sight.  They were carrying signs and cheerfully chatting and shouting.  Still wondering if people could hear her message, Mari called it out.

To her surprise a single voice called it back.  She called it out again.  More voices called it back.  This four-letter word released its full potential that day, started by the voice of a child, a child who now knew the truth.

We happily join in this story as we read or listen to the conversation between Mari and her mother at the start of the book.  Author Heather Dean Brewer engages us immediately with this technique.  Mari's mother's reply to each of her questions with the title words increases the connection to the event in which they are participating.  Layer by layer it draws us toward the amazing conclusion.  Here is a passage.

Some held signs like Mari's, all saying different things.
Everyone cheered as they walked together.  Mama joined
them.  Mari bobbed above the crowd like a canary fluttering
over trees.  She felt as tall as one of the buildings. 

You can feel the sense of purpose when you look at the front, right, of the open dust jacket.  People are peaceful and happy to be able to voice their views in protest.  Not only does this scene mirror the title, but it mirrors the mood of the crowd.  The title text, solid red hearts, Mari and her mother are varnished.  It's a wonderful design style to combine bright colors with muted colors.

To the left, on the back, we are shown, on a canvas of pinkish lavender a picture of Mari and Mama.  Within a loose frame done in red crayon they are seated at the table making their posters.  The string of hearts hangs in their window behind them.  

On the book case, back and front, is a collage, in separate but blended squares, of people from the march.  You can tell these images represent all the marches on that day from around the world.  In the center on the right front, in a large square of its own, is the title.

The opening and closing endpapers are a lavender.  A two-page picture of the buildings in hues of gray of Mari's neighborhood, with the occupants standing in lighted windows, is the setting for the title page.  Artist LeUyen Pham rendered these pictures 

in watercolor, gouache, pencil, and ink.

Their size shifts with the text, enhancing its pacing. There are large images crossing the gutter to make a column for text.  There are double-page pictures with double-page smaller horizontal visuals underneath them.  Sometimes there are small vignettes accompanying the text.  There are full-page illustrations.  There is one large double-page vertical picture requiring you to turn the book.  There are three smaller vertical illustrations attached to one huge swirl of humanity on a full page.

Love abounds in every picture.  So does happiness, mirrored on all the faces.  We are always aware of where Mari and Mama are.  Readers will pause to notice the details; the items in Mari's and Mama's home which make it theirs, the words on the protesters' signs, the diversity of the participants in the march, and all the illustrations have hearts in them.

One of my many, many favorite images is for the quote above noted.  It is a close-up view of the marchers.  Buildings are behind those on the right and on the far left.  We see a collection of smiling faces, mouths open in cheers, and many holding signs.  There are adults and children.  Mari on Mama's shoulders is on the left side.  She watches all this in joyful contemplation.

Love Is Powerful written by Heather Dean Brewer with illustrations by LeUyen Pham is as strong as its title.  It presents an intimate portrait of happiness found when words are brought alive by actions.  At the close of the book is a letter from the real Mari along with a picture of her at the march.  This title has my highest recommendation for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Heather Dean Brewer and LeUyen Pham and their other work, visit their websites by following the link attached to their name.  Heather Dean Brewer has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  LeUyen Pham has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  At Watch. Connect. Read., the site of Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, Heather Dean Brewer and LeUyen Pham talk about this book.  At Penguin Random House you can view interior images.

In a beautiful continuation of their collaboration, author Susan Verde and artist Peter H. Reynolds, bring to readers another thoughtful title.  This book guides readers in making a difference.  No matter how small you are, you can bring change to yourself and more importantly, to others.  I Am One: A Book of Action (Abrams Books for Young Readers, September 15, 2020) welcomes you to make the first move.

How do I 
make a difference?

It seems like a tall order
for one so small.

The young child is told things of beauty begin with one.  One seed planted in the ground, one stroke of a paintbrush, or one brick removed from a wall can lead to the greater good.  Are not gardens, paintings, and friends better?

When a wall is gone, we can form bonds with those we were previously unaware.  Still using the number one, each gesture increases the bond between the two individuals.  A word, a hug, and a candle pave the path for the duo.

They arrive at a body of water.  A drop of candlewax in the water produces a ripple, growing and growing and growing.  The friends ride on the swells in a boat carrying their special cargo to new shores.

There they are greeted by others. Individuals, working together, to create a transformation.  They take what was, forming a marvelous masterpiece.

From her initial and only question, author Susan Verde weaves a tapestry of story.  Each of her carefully crafted thoughts add color and detail.  The common thread is the word one.  She begins with the first child, but with the mention of a brick and breaking down walls, another character is welcomed.  It is at this point, the color and detail become more vivid and intricate, representing the realm of possibility.  Here are two companion sentences.

I can use my
One soft voice
to start a friendship. 

I can perform
One act of kindness
to start a connection.

The color white is superbly used throughout this title to highlight the characters and their actions.  The spiral of hues of blue on the front of the dust jacket behind the first child symbolizes the ripples from the single drop of wax.  To the left, on the back of the dust jacket is an interior illustration of the first child leaning over the water so the single drop of wax can fall.  The second child is watching the effect.  The color palette selected by Peter H. Reynolds is full of warmth and calm here and on every single page.

On the book case, on a canvas of pure crisp white, a rainbow brush stroke like a wave moves from the left to the right of the opened case.  A tiny bird flies toward the gutter from the upper, left-hand corner.  Riding on the crest of the wave on the right side is a bright pink boat carrying the children, their precious cargo and a rainbow tree.  

The opening and closing endpapers are washed circles of turquoise.  On the title page is a close-up of the boat with the first child, the contents of the boat, the dog of the second child, and the tiny bird on the dog's head.  Rendered

using ink, gouache, watercolor, and tea

these pictures are portraits of endearing characters and their actions.  Each intricate line, element and color uplift and extend the words.

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

I can perform
One act of kindness
to start a connection.

It is a single-page picture.  Behind the first child on the left are outlines of bricks in the wall.  Several bricks are on the ground.  This child is bending over to give a treat to the dog.  The second child is seated on the ground near a fire and a candle.  Tiny flowers bloom from grassy mounds.

This fifth book, I Am One: A Book of Action written by Susan Verde with illustrations by Peter H. Reynolds, in this stellar series is important.  It is important to understand each one of us can contribute to making the world better for others.  Each action no matter how small puts us on the right path.  At the close of the book is a two-page author's note including a mindfulness meditation and a self-reflection activity.  This book has my high recommendation to be included in both your personal and professional collections.  The other titles in the series are I Am Yoga, I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness, I Am Human: A Book of Empathy, and I Am Love: A Book of Compassion.

To discover more about Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds and their other work, please follow the link attached to their name to access their websites.  Susan Verde has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Peter H. Reynolds has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website are additional resources to use with this book.

Previously I wrote a post about Sometimes People March written and illustrated by Tessa Allen.  You might want to include that title with these for a unit of study, a story time, or to promote discussion.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Recognizing Riches In Rubbish

We know with a certain mindset we see things wherever we go that otherwise might be missed.  If we are actively seeking the little details, beauty, kindness, and the best life has to offer, we will find it.  It is not always easy, but with focus we will discover treasures of all shapes and sizes, some fleeting, and others lasting a lifetime.

There are remarkable human beings who do perceive life as an entire sensory experience.  They are all the more exemplary for their sharing of their discoveries.  In Digging For Words: Jose Alberto Gutierrez and the Library He Built (Schwartz & Wade Books, September 8, 2020)  written by Angela Burke Kunkel with illustrations by Paola Escobar (Rescatando Palabras: Jose Alberto Gutierrez y la biblioteca que creo escrito por Angela Burke Kunkel, ilustrado por Paola Escobar, traducido por Teresa Mlawer), we are introduced to a man whose work is alive in those he serves.  Two separate individuals connect through their shared love of story.  It's a blend of fact and fiction based upon the truth.

In the city of Bogota, in the barrio of
La Nueva Gloria, there live two Joses.

Little Jose stirs in his bed.  The early-morning light wakes

En la ciudad de Bogota, en el barrio
La Nueva Gloria, viven dos Joses.

El pequeno Jose se despereza en la cama.   La luz de la
manana lo despierta.

A child living in Bogota longs for Saturday.  On Friday, he rides his bike to school, he tries to listen to his teacher, and plays futbol (soccer) with his friends.  He knows tomorrow is filled with promise.

A man living in Bogota contemplates his day.  He did not complete his schooling as a child.  He left to become a bricklayer to help support his family.  We are told he nevertheless read each night with his mother.  

Un cuento at the end of a long day felt like Paradise.
Un cuento al final de la jornada era como estar en el Paraiso. 

In the evening, the boy returns home.  In the evening, the man gets ready to collect the garbage from other areas of Bogota.  He works all night.  What this man, this grown Jose, does is search through the trash for treasure.  His treasure is books.  It all began many years ago when he found a copy of Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  That book was his doorway into another world.  He has never stopped searching for other doorways.

At the close of every shift, Jose brings home gathered books, placing them in stacks and on bookshelves, his library.  On Saturday, the younger Jose runs like the wind with the other neighborhood children to enter Paradise at the older Jose's home.  There they spend hours looking through all the collected books of all shapes and sizes covering a wide range of subjects and interests.  That night the labors of Jose, the garbage collector, will be enjoyed by children all over La Nueva Gloria, until next Saturday when they, like Jose the child, will again enter Paraiso.

Readers will gravitate to the narrative supplied by debut picture book author, Angela Burke Kunkel.  She combines the story of a fictional child with that of the real Jose Alberto Gutierrez.  Given the work of Jose Alberto Gutierrez, the fictional child is apt to be true.

The writing of Angela Burke Kunkel is clear, concise, and lyrical.  Spanish words are a part of the story, carefully placed so their meaning is easily discernable.  So vivid are her descriptions, we find ourselves seated next to Jose as his trunk makes its nightly runs, and we find ourselves running along with Jose toward his Saturday destination.  Here is a passage in English and Spanish.

A few pages to read, a few hours to dream,
and then it is a new day.  Tonight, he revisits
Macondo, a magical village deep in the jungles
of Colombia, and he is lost in a place where
times moves by its own rules. 

Varias paginas que leer, varias horas para
sonar, y asi comienza un nuevo dia.  Por la
noche, nuevamente visita Macondo, un pueblo
magico en lo mas profundo de la selva de
Colombia, y se pierde en ese lugar, donde el
tiempo transcurre a su ritmo.

When you look at the front, right, of the open dust jacket you see a man and a boy, smiling.  Stacks of books frame them on either side.  From the pages of an open book, we see the stories each find in their books depicted.  It's easy to imagine this very scene happening each day in the library Jose Alberto Gutierrez has made for the people in his barrio.  To the left, on the back, a garbage trunk moves through the nighttime streets of Bogota.  The words read:

Jose scans the sidewalks as he drives,
squinting in the dim light.
He searches the household trash
for hidden treasures . . . books!

Mientras Jose manejo su camion de basura,
escrudina las aceras de la ciudad
entrecerrando los ojos bajo la tenue luz.
Busca entre la basura de las casas
tesoros escondidos . . . !Libros!

On the book case in a wash of muted yellow with streaks of blue, we see the younger and older Jose.  The child is on the left, bending down to pick up a book.  A trail of five books lead to the far right with the older Jose, carrying a stack of books, as he runs off the right edge.

On the opening and closing endpapers artist Paola Escobar begins and concludes her visual interpretation.  On the first beneath a stary sky, brilliant with several larger stars, and a crescent moon, Jose drives his truck, lights shining in front of his vehicle.  Beneath a streetlamp, a can holds bags of trash.  Next to the can is a stack of books.  On the second, the scene is the same, but empty of the truck, the trash, and the books.

These illustrations by Paola Escobar rendered digitally are filled with details of life in the barrio of both the child and the man.  Their size alternates in keeping with the narrative and its pacing.  The eagerness of the boy and the contemplative and determined nature of the man are vividly portrayed.  The two-page pictures are marvelous, giving us multiple perspectives, allowing us to see realty and the magic found in story.  

One of my many favorite pictures is an overview of the cityscape of Bogota at night.  Beginning in the upper, left-hand corner Jose and his truck wind back and forth and back and forth from stop to sop from left to right to the left of the gutter, crossing the gutter, and then winding back through the city up into the hills to the right of the gutter.  Beneath the streetlamps are the garbage cans.  We can see Jose stopping, carrying bags to his trunk, and searching for books.  This gives us a superb overview of the enormity of this man's accomplishments, night after night, book by book.

I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections, supplying both the English and Spanish editions, for your readers.  There is a beauty in both, in the use of language, and in the illustrations.  This book, Digging For Words: Jose Alberto Gutierrez and the Library He Built (Rescatando Palabras: Jose Alberto Gutierrez y la biblioteca que creo) written by Angela Burke Kunkel with illustrations by Paola Escobar, translation by Teresa Mlawer, is a powerful reminder of the power of one.  At the close of the book is an author's note, descriptions of books featured in the narrative, and selected online sources.

To learn more about Angela Burke Kunkel and Paola Escobar, please follow the link attached to their name to access their respective sites.  Angela Burke Kunkel has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Paola Escobar has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Angela Burke Kunkel is highlighted at KidLit411, The Soaring '20s, and at author Tara Lazar's Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).  At the publisher's website you can view interior images in both the Spanish and English editions.  Angela Burke Kunkel is interviewed about this book by Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, at his site, Watch. Connect. Read.

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

We See This

Some of the most cherished memories of spending decades as a teacher librarian are not the moments when children finally understand you, but when you understand them.  It's those times when you step outside your thinking, refreshed by the children's thinking.  Their perspectives tend to be clear, honest, and profound.  You should never underestimate their powerful capacity for compassion, or their wonderful ability to find humor and laugh out loud with abandon.

For these reasons, among many others, children are to be cherished. We live our lives so those who come after us have a richer (and more informed) experience.  If You Come To Earth (Chronicle Books, September 15, 2020) written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall is a book for all children, of all ages.  It's inspired by children and written as a letter from a child to a visitor from outer space.  It's a love letter about this fragile, but fierce planet and its inhabitants.  It's a remarkable read.  

Dear Visitor from Outer Space,

If you come to Earth,

here's what you need to know.

You'll know Earth from the other planets around the Sun by its color, its green and blue.  It has land and water.  Usually people live on the land in spaces of all sizes, or in rare cases alone and away from anyone else.

There are a vast variety of homes, made of a vast variety of materials depending on an equal number of factors.  Living in these homes are families, members who care for each other with love.  The billions of people populating Earth come in all shapes and sizes with a vast array of abilities.  Each one is unique, thinking their own thoughts, which are sometimes mirrored on their faces.

People dress for their jobs, their everyday activities and their weather.  Our weather can be breathtakingly beautiful, nearly perfect, but it can also be terrifying with people losing their homes and worldly possessions.  People find it necessary to move from one point to another, traveling in various methods on land, in the air, or on the water.  

Our letter writer addresses the recipient by revealing they are

a kid

They attend school to become informed to make better decisions as an adult.  As adults, people do many, many different things to keep society functioning.  When not working, their methods of enjoying free time exhibit their particular passions.  Our narrator goes on to discuss the necessity of food and water and its unequal availability.  This takes us to the sea and its saltiness.

On the surface the sea looks vast and fairly empty but it is not.  It is teeming with life, as is our land and our air.  The child presents to the reader what they wish to be if they were not human.  They talk about kinds of singing, music, language, and colors.  They compare those things found in nature, and those things made by humans.  They discuss those things not seen, some lovely, and some dangerous.

In closing the letter, the kid muses how on Earth we don't always agree, we fight, but this is not the best way for us to treat each other.  We find ways to make life easier for each other; those older take care of those that are younger, until their roles are reversed.  We honor the gifts of every age. There are things we don't know, but the writer states if you (being from Outer Space) come here I will honor the invitation at the end of this letter with an open heart.

Well, Sophie Blackall, you've again put your heart and mind on the pages of a book.  You've connected us with your words through the child letter writer.  You've shown us not only where we live, but how we live.

You, with your gorgeous language and ability to place yourself in the soul of your characters, take us from the solar system and to Earth.  We journey with you and your words to communities, to homes, and the people in them living their lives as best as they can.  You communicate through this child the less than best in humans and the best in humans focusing on what is here now, and what we can do to preserve it.  You offer hope.  With your sentences, you leave room for your artwork to offer further interpretation. Here is a passage.

There are more than seven billion people on Earth.
We all have bodies.

But every body is different.

I wish you all could see the marvelous details in the open dust jacket.  There are tiny gold foil dots in the blue sky and in the pattern of planet Earth.  The child's letter spiraling upward is a pictorial presentation of all the wonder to be found by a visitor when they arrive here.  

To the left, on the back, beginning with the ISBN the letter path is wider.  It weaves upward and loops toward the sun in the upper, left-hand corner.  The end of the letter is attached to a circular spacecraft.

On the book case with the universe in its black and starry expanse are possible beings from outer space.  There are four on the back, and one that crosses the spine.  There are four others on the front.  They are all colorful and singular in their design.

On the opening and closing endpapers, Sophie Blackall presents readers with the initial beginning and ending of this story.  First, the sun is rising across a washed sky in early morning blues and purples.  Shrubs fan out on either side of a hillside patchworked in mounds of floral displays.  On the right side of the hill is a two-story home with the letter ribboning out from a lighted second-story window.  On the second set of endpapers, our Moon, full and glowing, hangs about the same house, now on the left.  The letter has been released and found a recipient in the circular spacecraft hovering above the hill in a dusky sky with remnants of the sunset rising above the hill.  The letter flowing from the house on the opening endpapers continues across the verso and title pages, surrounding the text on the first and providing a place for the text on the second.

The illustrations in this book

were rendered in chinese ink and watercolor.

Each image by Sophie Blackall shifts in size to enhance her words.  Sometimes we are looking down on the illustration or looking at a panoramic presentation.  The intricate details will have you stopping at every page.  They ask you to pause and enjoy our Earth and all it offers to us.  They invite you to grow your appreciation for all people, and the inhabitants of this planet, our home. 

Within the two-page pictures there are panels dividing the space, highlighting specific examples to expand the words.  There is also a collection of circular images, or a cluster of windows, horizontal or diagonal illustrations, or a large group of portraits, each amplifying the child's statements.  Diversity is shown repeatedly as reflected in real life.  There are single-page visuals used for direct comparisons.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations in which I gasped out loud when I saw it is a double-page picture.  It is the artwork for the child speaking about birds.  Across the two pages is the shape of a large bird.  This shape, wings in flight, body, head and beak, and tail, is brimming with all kinds of birds in flight or repose.  The penguin is speaking the words:

I can't fly!

If I had a large trunk for treasure it would be filled with books, books with special significance and certain to be classics in time, if not already.  This book, If You Come To Earth written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, would have a place in this treasure trunk. It is stunning in every respect, words, artwork, design, and in the quality of paper.  No matter how many times you read it, you'll find something new and leave the reading with your spirits lifted.  There is a full page Author's Note at the end with Sophie Blackall speaking about her inspiration for this book, her work on this book, and what she wishes readers will take away from this title. I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Sophie Blackall and her body of work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Sophie Blackall has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view lovely, displayed interior images.  Further images are available at the book's website along with a letter writing kit.  Sophie Blackall and this book are featured on PictureBooking and at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Where To Start? Look In Your Heart.

There are days so exquisite, your soul feels like it might burst with happiness.  The air is diamond sharp. Even though the temperature is in the mid-fifties; you have your windows open to savor the clarity of the gentle breeze.  Small clouds, tiny puffs, roam across a startling blue expanse of sky.  The sun, at a different angle now, calls forth in warmth the blossoms on autumn flowers. 

Today is one of those days.  You wish, not for the first time, you could bottle it up to enjoy at a future date.   With gratitude, there are books, mirroring these magical days, for us to hold in our hands and read whenever we desire.  One such book is You Are A Beautiful Beginning (Roaring Brook Press, August 25, 2020) written by Nina Laden with illustrations by Kelsey Garrity-Riley.  In this marvelous, mindful guide to life, profound perspectives lead the way to truth and wonder.  

It is not the number of pages.

It is the story in the book.

For many of us it is not the distance we walk from one point to another, but the first move we make.  Do we focus on all the subsequent steps, or look at the world around us?  Lifting our voices in song, whether there are words, or not, is an uplifting style of music all our own.  

Sometimes we try hard for perfection without realizing the special skill behind every attempt.  One good friend, the one who is there despite all obstacles, is more valuable than numerous acquaintances.  It is good to remember not how many things we have, but how many things we are willing to give to others.

Do we try to outshine others?  Do we pride ourselves on being a contributing member of a group?  Do we construct roadblocks?  Do we make new paths?

In each of these comparative thoughts, fourteen altogether, we are asked to assess our thinking.  We are shown how to see the world through the eyes of "we" instead of "me."  We walk side-by-side with words and images toward being exactly who we are, a child of the universe, a spectacular piece in the fantastic whole.

Each of the pair of sentences penned by Nina Laden are a thoughtful study of personal growth.  The final word in the second and fourth statements in two pairs rhyme.  This cadence of rhyming and repetitive words is a gentle invitation for reader participation.  It's as if Nina Laden has held out her hand to readers, willing to walk with us as we converse and ponder the paths we choose.  Here is another passage.

It is not being afraid of darkness.

It is looking for places that glow.

The three children shown walking across the log bridge, on the front of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, meet each other one by one as their days begin and they start to explore their outside world.  The animated elements from nature and the tiny fantastical beings join them as their adventure grows, image by image.  To the left, on the back, is a pastoral scene, looking down a hill toward the tiny community where the children reside.  The final four sentences from the book are placed in the center of the picture.

A plaid pattern of diamonds in two tones of lighter rust cover the opening and closing endpapers.  Wildflowers, mushrooms, small grassy mounds, a beetle, and a snail are items included in the visual framing the lower portion of the text on the title page.  Prior to the book's closing endpapers is a charming two-page picture of the initial girl, asleep in her bed, on the left, holding the book she was first reading.  From the book is a flowing stream of experienced and possible adventures and dreams, stretching from the left to the right edge.  Under the right portion of the stream is the dedication and publication information.

The illustrations rendered by Kelsey Garrity-Riley using

gouache, ink, and colored pencils, with a little bit of digital editing

alternate between large oval images, double-page pictures, and single-page visuals, edge to edge.  With her artwork, Kelsey Garrity-Riley forms a companion story, taking the words of Nina Laden and applying them to the unfolding pictorial tale.  To see this happening as you read the words is quite enchanting.

Readers will stop at each page turn to study all the intricate details.  They will be thrilled to see a beetle wearing a bowler hat, and carrying a curved cane watching the first little girl leave her home.  They will gasp in wonder at the dandelion fluff turned into ballerinas floating on the wind.  They will exclaim at the fairy folk who emerge from their homes to help the children.  They will sigh as the day progresses into evening and everyone is together sheltered by the efforts of their day.  

One of my many, many favorite pictures is for the words

It is singing a song in your heart.

This full-page illustration is a close-up view of a collage of yellow flowers open and budding on a backdrop of leaves in green and blue hues.  Two brown-shaded birds fly into the scene, one from the lower, right-hand corner, and the other down from the top, left-hand side.  In the center of the page in the center of an open yellow flower is the boy we see on the jacket and cover.  His eyes are closed, and his arms are spread wide, ready for an embrace.  His face is raised, and his mouth is open in song.  Three beetles are near him playing instruments.  This is pure bliss.

This book, You Are A Beautiful Beginning written by Nina Laden with illustrations by Kelsey Garrity-Riley, is one to keep close to you.  Each pair of phrases welcomes us to think how we will approach moments in our days and the directions we wish our lives to follow.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Nina Laden and Kelsey Garrity-Riley and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the link attached to their names.  Nina Laden has accounts on Facebook, and Instagram.  Kelsey Garrity-Riley has an account on Instagram.  (You can see pictures from this book there.)  At the publisher's website you can view multiple interior images.