Quote of the Month

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

Friday, October 16, 2020

For The Girls

For centuries, for generations, women have struggled for equality.  For them to construct the best possible lives for their families, friends, and themselves, certain elements are valuable for success.  A solid, basic education with appropriate materials, qualified educators, and the opportunity to pursue a desired goal or dream gives all women, regardless of their age, a firm footing on a good future.  The support of a parent, guardian, or trusted mentor can be priceless in helping to form a foundation of beliefs or in supplying strength in the face of adversity.

Earlier this month, two children's literature publications address both elements.  The first, One Girl (Abrams Books for Young Readers, October 6, 2020) written by Andrea Beaty with illustrations by Dow Phumiruk, vividly portrays the power of a single young girl acquiring a single book.  Through lilting, rhyming words and luminous images, we see the power of both. 

One Girl.

One spark.

Faint and fading in the dark.

This spark is a book which cascades from the sky to appear glowing at the girl's feet as she sits on the steps of her front porch.  When she opens the book, the spark though faint continues to glow.  It burns without going out.  It is fire!

It grows brighter and brighter, inspiring her to follow a dream, a dream of being educated.  The more she knows, the more she grows.  She shares what she knows so others can grow.

The brightness spreads from girl to girl, girl to boy, and boy to boy, and boy to girl.  Each child is learning.  With their increase in knowledge, they can embrace the wonder our world holds for them.  What they read and what they write spreads farther and farther, up and out into all corners of the planet.

With this accomplishment sparks are traveling where they are most needed.  They, like falling stars, make wishes come true.  They land one book at a time at the feet of one girl.

Beginning this narrative with these two words has readers asking many questions.  Andrea Beaty immediately kindles our interest.  Her simple but profound word choices fashion a flawless flow, almost a melody, with repetition of specific words inviting reader participation.  Here are two more word combinations.

Flicker . . .
     Flicker . . .
          Flicker . . .


Tiny ember.
Burning low.

When you look at the little girl on the front of the dust jacket, you feel the hope and awe shown in her face.  She has discovered the endless possibilities found in a book.  They grow up and out, blooming and flying.  The warm background of rich red, orange, and yellow hues extends over the spine to a home on a hill with the girl seated on the steps of her porch.  The book glimmering with potential is on the ground in front of her.  Words from the narrative invite us to open the book.

On the book case is a large interior image.  It shows the girl, now in school.  A star barrette holds part of her hair in place.  She is on the left, her hands crossing the gutter to rest on her desk.  One hand holds a pencil as she writes.  Stary sparks drift upward from her paper in a pale rainbow of color.  The canvas for this illustration is a shade of cream.

On the opening and closing endpapers on a variegated purple background is a pattern of delicate white flowers, vines, books, pencils, pieces of paper, rockets, stars, crescent moons, and white birds.  Some of the leaves are in several colors of green and blue.  With a page turn we are treated to a double-page picture of a community on a hill at night.  Some of the windows in the homes glow with lamplight.  A sliver of moon sits in the upper, right-hand corner.  A comet like object arcs over the title text.

These illustrations by Dow Phumiruk are rendered using 

pencil and Photoshop.

Some of the illustrations span two pages, single pages, or others are smaller with loose framing.  They are atmospheric, displaying not only the time of day, but the mood of the little girl and the other children.  The use of light and shadow are beautiful to see.  When the words of the book are released as wonder, the delicate designs are intricate, portraying a world of potential.  Just looking at the little girl and the other children will fill your heart with joy.  

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a two-page image.  The background from bottom to top begins as cream moving to a muted orange.  There are eight children spanning both pages, wearing their uniforms in white and navy.  They represent a diverse group of children.  They are gazing upward.  The main little girl, to the left of the gutter, has her right arm up and holding a pencil.  From this pencil scrolls of white lines and stars move above the children and around to the lower, right-hand corner.  Within this design are elements representing hopes and dreams.  The words read:

Shares her song.

The collaboration between author Andrea Beaty and artist Dow Phumiruk on One Girl gifts readers with a book to treasure.  It's a pleasure to read aloud, in fact it would make a marvelous reader's theater.  I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections to promote the true power of a book and education.  An author's note offers further explanation about books, knowledge, education, and the lack of education for too many girls globally.

To discover more about Andrea Beaty and Dow Phumiruk and their other work, please access their respective websites by following the link attached to their names.  Andrea Beaty has accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  In addition to her website Dow Phumiruk has another site here, as well as accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view multiple interior images.

The second book is a promise from a father to his daughter, a love letter explaining how they can shape their world, her world.  What We'll Build: Plans For Our Together Future (Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, October 6, 2020) written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers is a journey of discovery and of finding one's capabilities, and a guide to accomplish what is true and good in our lives.  It shows readers how an adult can be one who endeavors to be an enduring bedrock or fortress if needed.

What shall we build, you

and I?

Let's gather all our tools for a start

In a row, all the tools represent a father and his daughter, a green crayon near a paintbrush, and a toy pig next to a wrench.  This is how they will make things, and if necessary, restart.  Perhaps they should build a door and a house around it.

They will work together building each other's future.  They will create love for when it is needed most.  They know a hole might be necessary so they can hide.  Sometimes it will be necessary to construct a mighty abode with a wall around it, but also a gate to allow entrance of former enemies.

From that fortress, together they will raise a tower from which to gaze upward at the world beyond ours.  No mountain will hinder their progress.  They will build a tunnel.  Whatever is necessary for them to build to enjoy endless opportunities, they will use their tools to make it.

They will rest.  They will travel in a seaworthy vessel.  And then when a low is reached, they will recover in a special place where loved objects reside.  Those with the earlier-made affection will remain until the lowest of the lows calls to them.  This father and his daughter have been busy planning, so as the narrative concludes they are warm and asleep by one of the oldest forms of comfort which they build together.

There is a childlike quality to the rhyming narrative written by Oliver Jeffers.  He moves freely from one thought to the other, like children do when their imaginations are set free, unhindered.  The narrative changes from building a tunnel through a mountain to constructing a road to the moon or from resting cozily in a hammock to a wild ride at sea.  The words let's, we'll, and I'll precede build multiple times to supply a soothing and comforting cadence.  Here is a single sentence which I could read over and over.

We'll put these favorite things beside

the earlier love we set aside.

When you open the dust jacket you see that the background on the front spans over the spine, flap edge to flap edge.  The stary sky and mountain range continue.  I love the complementary colors of purple, yellow and orange with the spot of red in the toolbox.  What a wonderful choice to have the title text be a sign built by the duo.  To the left of them, on the back, sitting alone is a fox.  This fox appears later in the narrative.  Words there, from the book, welcome you to the plans.

The book case is a pale lavender.  There are five tools in a row on the front.  They are embossed in red and silver foil, as is the text on the spine.  The tools shown, left to right, are a screwdriver, a saw, a hammer, a pencil, and a lightning bolt.

On a dark purple canvas elements from the story, looking like they were drawn in crayon, appear in hot pink on the opening and closing endpapers.  You have to smile when seeing these pages.  Father and daughter, hand in hand, are placed beneath the dedication on the verso. (Remember to read this wonderful dedication and a short note from Oliver and Mari, his daughter, also on this page.)  On the title page is the red toolbox, opened.

These illustrations by Oliver Jeffers are a blend of realism and whimsy with his signature style prevalent throughout the title.  They shift from double-page pictures to single-page images and in point of view for emphasis.  Several times careful readers will notice how one illustration connects to the other.  

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  Father and daughter are stretched feet to feet on a hammock they built between two small trees with pink leaves.  The trees are growing from what appears to be the surface of our moon, sandy in color.  Both are wearing glass helmets.  The father, arms behind his head, is sleeping.  The daughter with one arm raised is speaking.  Her toy pig rests on her stomach.  Her other arm is behind her head.  Two birds, wearing clear helmets are present.  In the distance in a pink and purple sky with stars is planet Earth.  This picture is one of contented and affectionate happiness, pure perfection.

This book, What We'll Build: Plans For Our Together Future written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, is a joyful, truthful exploration of what fathers and daughters can accomplish.  It resonated with this daughter, who to this day is far better for having a father who taught her to build and who she sorely misses every single day.  Hand this book to daughters, fathers, or anyone who is looking to form relationships founded in love.

To learn more about Oliver Jeffers and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  You can see a few interior images from this book there.  Oliver Jeffers has another website titled Oliver Jeffers' World.  Oliver Jeffers has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  I hope you enjoy these videos and are able to follow the VancouverWritersFest coming in a few days.

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