Quote of the Month

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

Friday, October 23, 2020

Furry Friends Find Fun And Family

They are the ultimate companions.  Their distinctive personalities provide us with constant comfort and laughter.  Truthfully, without them our worlds would be incomplete.  They make us wholly human.

For this reason, let us look at three publications in the last five months with feline or canine characters.  In the first title, Joy (Candlewick Press, June 6, 2020) written by Yasmeen Ismail with illustrations by Jenni Desmond, a kitten shows us how to release merriment with total abandon.  You'll be ready to join this frisky feline in mere seconds.

Oh, boy! Oh, boy!
My favorite toy.
I feel joy!

A red ball of yarn caught in the paws of this mischief maker fashions a red tangled trail, until another object gets the scamp's attention.  A blue ball bounces across a room, over its other animal occupants, with the kitten close to it.  Momentarily pausing for an affectionate cuddle with a cat parent, the kitten, along with the ball, is off and running into a nearby lamp.

Kitten and ball go, go, go, until stopped by colliding into the large resident dog.  Several unplanned moves later, some due to the rambunctious dog, finds the youngster outside.  Down, down, down the steps of the porch, the little furry one boings and bounces.

This does not feel good.  This hurts.  The kitten wants its mom or dad.  In a quick minute, a parent is there, offering the necessary care.  Back inside they go, to curl up together in their bed.  Wait!  Oh, no . . . off the kitten goes.

Whether read silently or aloud the words by author Yasmeen Ismail will send your soul dancing with their rhyming, alliteration, and onomatopoeia.  Each carefully chosen word mirrors the antics of the kitten and her current favorite toy.  In addition to the tale of happiness the sentences tell, readers will be reassured by the gestures and care given by the parent to the kitten.  Here is a passage.



this happy soul! 

When you open the matching dust jacket and book case, you are introduced to the story's characters, and the use of full color on white which is prevalent throughout the book.  The kitten, beginning her dance of glee on the front is varnished along with the yarn and title text.  To the left, on the back, the adult cat holds the kitten close in their red, green, and blue plaid bed.  A single curled string of red yarn is on the floor to the left of and behind the bed. 

On the opening and closing endpapers done in the bright red shown on the jacket and case is a tangle of white yarn strung across both pages and coming to rest as a white ball of yarn in the lower, right-hand corner.  On the dedication, verso, and title pages we see a sleeping adult in the bed on the left.  Bouncing dashes indicate the jumping of the kitten that has left the bed to begin the chase with the red ball of yarn.

Illustrator Jenni Desmond using

mixed media

depicts all the elation this kitten feels and displays.  Her images span two pages, portions of single pages, or are grouped together on a single page to portray movement and passage of time.  Cleverly placed dashes indicate the movement of the kitten and its current favorite toy.  At times, the words follow the same path as the dashes.  The facial expressions on the animal characters, especially the kitten, convey their every mood.  The perspective is usually one of observer in the room, but several times to place dramatic emphasis on a point in the narrative, we move close to the kitten.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  Across the bottom on a canvas of crisp white the lamp has fallen and is bent from left to right with the shade resting in the lower, right-hand corner.  Above the lamp in a series of loop-de-loops made by the dashes, the words on top, the kitten and blue ball travel.  Above the lamp and shade on the right, the kitten mid flip, is grinning in absolute satisfaction.

If you want to make your heart happy, experiencing the energy of that happiness, then this book is for you.  Joy by Yasmeen Ismail with illustrations by Jenni Desmond is a read aloud delight on every page.  I highly recommend this title for a storytime focusing on pets, playfulness, and to present how word play can create a mood or a moment.  You'll want to add this book to your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Yasmeen Ismail and Jenni Desmond and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Yasmeen Ismail has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Jenni Desmond has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  At Penguin Random House you can view other portions of the book.

It's not often a dog is categorized as a foodie.  Oh, we know how amazing it is that they can distinguish between the fruit, vegetable, and cheese drawer in the refrigerator.  When the cheese drawer is opened, they appear next to you, seated and ready for a treat, with the speed of light.  Their ability to distinguish one from the other is the stuff of legend.  They do love certain foods over other delicious delights.

In her debut picture book as author and illustrator Alexandra Thompson explores food, and the delectable life of a French Bulldog.  In A Family For Louie (Putnam, G. P. Putnam's Sons, June 6, 2020), we follow this canine foodie whose life is almost perfect, except for one thing.  He knows magical moments are better when shared.

Louie considered himself a
dog of very fine tastes.

He knew every chef in town.

He enjoyed the best restaurants and their finest fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  He never missed dessert.  In a park fountain he bathed before retiring in the evening with a book and a cup of hot cocoa.  As far as Louie was concerned this life of his was as heavenly as a gourmet meal.

Louie did notice other dogs sharing their days with humans.  Louie decided it might be nice to have a family.  What he did not expect was how hard it was to find a family.  One had terrible food choices, and another one had . . . horror of horrors . . . a cat!

As the sun dropped beneath the horizon, Louie's spirits dropped too.  Maybe there was no family for him.  Louie wandered from the park to the town.  What was this?  A new bakery?

Outside the bakery was a little girl Louie did not recognize.  She was friendly.  Louie was uncharacteristically shy.  It seemed that a cupcake could win the heart of a very particular French Bulldog.

When the story begins author Alexandra Thompson paints an endearing picture of Louie with her words.  We immediately identify with the life he has made for himself.  This seemly perfect life is an ideal segue into what Louie needs most.  Humor plays an important part in his attempts to find a family leading us into a gentle, welcome resolution.  Here is a passage.

The next day, Louie saw
a family having a picnic
at the beach.

He thought he might ask to join them,
but when Louie approached . . .

they were eating Jell-O salad
and sardine sandwiches!

These digitally designed illustrations by illustrator Alexandra Thompson convey with detailed charm Louie, his love of food, and his search for a fuller life.  In looking at the open dust jacket readers get a glimpse on the front, right, and back, left, of what that life can be for Louie.  On the front he is looking into the new bakery window with the little girl and her mother as silhouettes.  The title appears as though it is the name of the bakery.  The framing on the window is framing his new beginning.  

To the left, on the back, is a circular, decorative frame around a picture of Louie and the little girl.  They are both holding cupcakes with the cherry on top already consumed.  There is sheer contentment on their faces.  The words above them read:

Life is sweeter
when shared with friends.

The book case is a double page image of a country scene.  The background is a pale blue sky with pink light and clouds.  To the right of the spine on a hillside with meadow flowers, Louie, the little girl, and her mother are seated beneath a tree having a picnic. 

The opening and closing endpapers tell a tale too.  They represent Louie's life before and after he meets his new family.  It's a scene in the city featuring a single arched window in a wall with lanterns on either side.  

Each visual is either a double-page picture, a group of smaller images, or a single-page illustration.  Due to the technique employed by Alexandra Thompson, your eyes are immediately drawn to Louie in each one.  His distinctive facial expressions and body postures depict his every mood.  You'll find yourself falling in love with this little dog.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a full-page picture.  It's nighttime in the town.  In the background stars glow in the sky as lights shine in building windows.  Two trees on the left side of the park stand in dark dusky purple silhouette.  On the right side is a large tree with roots extending across the entire page.  Beneath those roots Louie has carved out a space for himself.  We see it in a cutaway.  The sight of him reading, snuggled in a blanket with his cup of hot cocoa, is precious.

Readers will become attached to the character in this story who is looking for a family.  A Family For Louie written and illustrated by Alexandra Thompson is about finding the most valuable piece missing from the puzzle that is your life.  I know this book will be a favorite for storytimes.  Give your listeners their favorite stuffed toy dog to hold when you share this book with them.  You'll want to add this to your professional and personal collections and gift it to dog lovers you know.

To learn more about Alexandra Thompson and her other work, follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  She has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.  Alexandra Thompson is a guest at author Katelyn Aronson's site.  At the publisher's website you can view the opening endpapers.  I believe you'll enjoy the reading of this book by its creator.

Sometimes our furry friends' personalities take zeal to an over-the-top level.  They see the world around them in an entirely different light than those with whom they share it.  It is this contrast which generates roll-on-the-floor hilarity.

There is a new cat in town who fits this description with excellence.  No Fuzzball! (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., August 4, 2020) written and illustrated by Isabella Kung is a debut release certain to leave a lasting impression long after the final word is read.  Get ready readers for a riotous read on the wild side.

Hello, I am


Perhaps you have never heard a name like this before,
but that is because you have not met
a queen like me.

This cat believes she is a queen because her humans, her subjects, scream at her, calling her name throughout the house.  She is certain they honor her every request when they are really going about their day. When she sees a packed suitcase, she is certain it is a present for her.

Her family is not happy she decides it is a new bed.  Tending to her ruffled fur after being lifted out of the suitcase, she is unaware they have left the house.  She is shocked at this discovery.  How could this happen?!

She muses about their possible reasons for leaving.  She is thrilled they took the dog, 

that disgusting slobbering mess.

Now she can nap in peace.

She is surprised to find them still absent after her nap, so she starts to roam around the house, worrying about possible scenarios in which they are hurt or kidnapped. In order to dispel these fears, she is determined to be a different kind of ruler.  She does her queenliest best as a cat of cats to spruce up the house.  Will they love what she has done to the place (palace)?  What do you think?

Told in the words of her queenship, humor is replete on every page. The authenticity of No Fuzzball's remarks, her point of view, is purr-fect.  As you read this story, it is hard not to think of author Isabella Kung as a cat whisperer.  Here is a passage.

A queen cannot tolerate such disrespect!
I demand a formal apology . . .

Wait, they left?

How dare they
forget their place?!

What has gotten into them?

There is no doubt in your mind when looking at the open book case, this cat is a bundle of energy, somewhat out of control to her humans, but having the time of her life.  She is a maker of messes.  A destroyer of calm.  And she will always cause you to giggle and grin.  The yellow ribbons on the right, front, cross over the spine to wind around, framing a collection of cat toys on the left, back.  In the center are sentences from the start of the narrative.  In a stroke of genius, a smaller No Fuzzball is casually leaning on the ISBN.

On the opening and closing endpapers readers are treated to the many moods of No Fuzzball.  The 15 images on the first set of endpapers are placed on a white canvas with red as an accent color.  The second set of 15 visuals with blue as the extra hue are also on a white background.  Here is also information about Isabella Kung.

On the verso and title pages it appears as though torn lavender paper reveals orange paper under it.  On the title page No Fuzzball is ripping the paper to reveal the No in the title.  She is at her catastrophic best.

These illustrations by illustrator Isabella Kung span two pages, single pages, or several smaller visuals are grouped on a single page.  No Fuzzball's fur is textured to the point you feel as though you might want to touch it, but you won't because this is No Fuzzball.  Shades of purple and red lend themselves to special marked moments.  It's the looks on the face of No Fuzzball and her subjects which will have you bursting into laughter.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It's when No Fuzzball is taking a nap.  Four lighted shapes of the sun shining through a window move from left to right, two on either side of the gutter.  These shapes are outlined in a golden orange color.  They are placed on a wooden floor in a muted purple.  No Fuzzball moves around in different positions which are typical but also comedic.

If you are looking for loads of fun and funny, No Fuzzball written and illustrated by Isabella Kung, her debut release, is a claw-some selection.  The constant comparison between the cat's beliefs and reality provide readers with a true page-turner.  You'll be asked to read it repeatedly.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Isabella Kung, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Isabella Kung has accounts on Instagram and TwitterIsabella Kung is a guest on Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb, The Soaring '20s and at Jena Benton Writer & Illustrator.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  Isabella Kung was part of a Scholastic Book Fair Book Joy Live event hosted by Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher.  Please take a few moments to enjoy these two videos.

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