Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Stepping Outside Into The Gathering Dark

Humans tend to shelter inside at day's end.  Some activities are better enjoyed and accomplished within their homes.  If we should venture outside, a whole new world greets us.  In the absence of light, shadows rule, creating new forms.  Our senses of hearing and smelling are heightened.

When homes are passed during our exploration of the world at night, we see scenes inside them rarely observed during daylight hours.  It's as if we have stepped into a magical realm.  Night Walk (Groundwood Books House of Anansi Press, September 29, 2020) written by Sara O'Leary with illustrations by Ellie Arscott is an enchanting excursion through a neighborhood during the evening hours.

The time was long past when I should have been
dreaming, but I lay in my bed, owl-eyed and awake.

With the special sense parents have, her dad realized she was still awake.  He suggested they take a walk.  The little girl's other siblings and mother were content, so it was only she and her dad sharing this adventure.

The girl and her father moved down the sidewalk between the dark and light cast by streetlamps.  All the windows glowed in some homes.  Other residences had one lamp shimmering in the darkness.

People she knew acted differently when she saw them in their homes.  People she didn't know were celebrating an event special to them alone.  She was pleasantly surprised how many people were awake when she was normally asleep.

Her dad explained about growing up in the country with houses far apart.  Seeing these homes with her on this night was different for him.  For her growing up in this neighborhood was all she knew.  And that was all she needed.

Authored by Sara O'Leary, this story reads like a lullaby.  It is told through the eyes of the little girl except for two pieces of dialog by her dad.  Each sentence is a soothing observation, even before the child and her father leave the house.  Short phrases replete with childlike wisdom wrap around you in cozy comfort.  Here is a passage.

In one house a big family was eating a meal too late for supper and
too early for breakfast.  They were so happy it made me happy too.

The scenes on the right, front, and left, back, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, invite readers into the journey with the little girl and her father.  We can feel the silence of the evening enveloping them.  We easily embrace the light given by the moon, stars, and streetlamps.  I love that we see the backs of the duo leading us into the park on the front.  To the left, a vertical rectangular image gives us a glimpse of another night walker with her dog.  The layout and design of this picture is gorgeous.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a deep midnight blue.  A loosely framed oval illustration precedes the verso and title pages.  It is a bird's-eye view of the neighborhood at night.  A closer perspective of the community, a single-page picture, is placed on the title page.  The use of light and shadow by artist Ellie Arscott is marvelous.

These illustrations rendered

in watercolor and ink pen on paper

are delicately detailed.  There is a softness, like the night, in all of them.  Ellie Arscott has included elements readers will enjoy discovering.  Will they recognize the picture books on the little girl's bed?  Do they have lights in their own bedrooms like the lights on the wall over the little brother's crib?  Do they have the same kind of shops in their neighborhood?

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  The girl and her father are standing on the sidewalk outside a corner house.  To the left of the gutter is the front of the house with an open porch and a street lined with buildings going in a perpendicular direction.  The home has several stained-glass windows on the side and a larger window.  At the back of the house is an enclosed sunroom, with floor to ceiling glass.  Lights are strung over its roof to a nearby tree.  Inside the glass room is a man playing his violin.  A white cat watches.  A dog, perched on the sofa, is howling in accompaniment.  In a touch of whimsy, the man, in addition to a plain shirt and pair of pants, is wearing pink bunny slippers.  

For those who have taken walks in the evening or for those who have not, this book rings with beautiful truth.  Night Walk written by Sara O'Leary with illustrations by Ellie Arscott is certain to inspire more shared strolls through neighborhoods.  It is guaranteed to bring peace and promote the sweetest of dreams.  I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Sara O'Leary and Ellie Arscott and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Sara O'Leary has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Ellie Arscott has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Debut picture book illustrator Ellie Arscott is a guest at author illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi's Inkygirl.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.

For those of us with canine companions, strolls are taken at all hours of the day and night, but those after dark are particularly spellbinding.  Our partners on those walks do so with elevated senses.  They alert us to things we might not notice.  Sometimes they do this as a protective measure.  Other times, it is as if they want us to see, hear, or smell what they see, hear and smell.  Woodland Dreams (Chronicle Books, October 27, 2020) written by Karen Jameson with pictures by Marc Boutavant is an ode to forest creatures, ten in number.  It is a poetic goodnight with rich, stunning artwork for each one.

Come home, Big Paws.

Berry picker
Honey trickster
Shadows deepen in the glen.
Lumber back inside your den.

A young girl with her dog, heading home, walk through the forest.  As they pass by each of the inhabitants, words are uttered for each one.  These words welcome them to their resting place.  They describe each animal with a nickname and their prominent characteristics.

There is the swimmer with a head of antlers, a swift-moving youngster bearing spots on its fur, and a long-eared leaper that enjoys a good meal of fresh clover.

As it gets darker and darker, snow begins to fall harder and harder.  A turtle rests drawing its feet and head inside its shell.  A woodpecker seeks its last meal before snuggling inside a hole in a tree.  A squirrel scurries by the light of the moon to its nest.

There is a final poem, an eleventh nickname and four distinctive lines.  A girl and her furry friend rest as quietly as those they passed in the woods.  Of what will the creatures, the child and her dog dream tonight?

The cadence of these poems penned by Karen Jameson is as pleasing on repeat readings as the first time it is enjoyed. Readers will be captivated by the nicknames of each animal following the words

Come home

at the beginning of each poem. Lines one and two rhyme with some of the best personality or characteristic traits readers are likely to encounter.  Offering perceptions of the time of day and its conditions, the narrator encourages them to return to their respective homes in lines three and four which also rhyme.  Here is another poem.

Come home, Painted Wings.

Nectar sipper
Dizzy dipper
Stars are twinkling. Flutter. Search.
Light upon your leafy perch. 

The open and matching dust jacket and book case radiate warmth and comfort.  The chosen color palette for the images on the front and back refer to the darkness of nighttime, but the natural earth tones are welcoming. The illustration on the front, right, of the squirrel curled in slumber with gathered treasures in its nest enfolds not only the girl and her dog but us. (The treasures are varnished.)  Careful readers will notice the girl is carrying a sketchbook.  This is foreshadowing for the final two-page, wordless picture at the conclusion. 

To the left, on the back, of the jacket and case, the canvas is still black.  Autumn leaves, a sprig of pine needles, an acorn cap, and a single Queen Anne's lace flower form a ring around the girl and her dog.  They are fast asleep in her bed at home.  The child and her dog are curled around each other.

On the opening endpapers the forest is alive with life as the sky shifts into the golden yellows and pinks of sunset.  We see a startled fawn watching us in the lower portion on the left side.  On the right, higher up, a woodpecker pauses staring at us.  Among the row of tree trunks are a variety of leaves, evergreen branches, holly, and pinecones.  The closing endpapers is the same section of the forest, but the changing light gives us different insights.  There is more definition to the trees and surrounding foliage. The fawn and woodpecker are no longer present.  The sky is dark with some snowflakes falling.  In a previously empty hollow, the squirrel now sleeps.

The illustrations by Marc Boutavant are simply splendid.  Each scene gives us appreciation for another portion of the woods.  The light in the sky changes as the walk progresses.  The weather shifts too.  The girl and her dog are shown far away from the animals or closer depending on safety for all.  In each setting they may quietly wait for the animal to pass, stop as it runs away or past them, or sometimes they will pause to watch it move at its own pace.  Readers will savor the moments shared by the girl, her dog, and the animals they encounter.

There is a blend of single-page pictures and double-page visuals.  When there is a single-page image, the text is placed on the opposite page with the animal at rest.  The elements in each illustration ask us to look closely before each page turn.  How many readers will see the final sketchbook paper on the girl's bed as she and her dog sleep?

One of my many favorite pictures is a single-page image.  It is the illustrations for Velvet NoseIn the foreground the girl is kneeling on the ground facing her dog.  The dog is seated.  She is holding his nose with one hand and her other hand with her finger pressed to her lip in a shushing gesture asks the dog to be quiet.  Behind them is an array of forest shrubs and trees filling almost all the page.  Passing through the shrubs and trees, nearly hidden, is a large moose.

For one on one or as a storytime read aloud Woodland Dreams written by Karen Jameson with pictures by Marc Boutavant is an ideal selection.  Whether you are using it for a theme about forest animals, the shift in seasons, or as a quiet or bedtime book, listeners will relish every moment.  You will want a copy of this title for your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Karen Jameson and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  The link attached to Marc Boutavant's name takes you to his agency page dedicated to his work.  Karen Jameson has accounts on Facebook and TwitterMarc Boutavant has an account on Instagram. Karen Jameson was recently interviewed at Lynn Becker Books Blog.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Life Partners-Loss And Love

As an educator who has experienced loss of a beloved being, you are always filled with compassion when a student comes to you expressing sadness at the death of a family member, a cherished animal, or friend.  You cannot know the exact nature of their grief, but you understand it based on your personal heartbreaks.  You listen.  You offer support.  If asked, you can share when deep sadness has touched your life. 

As a librarian, you know which titles can offer the best comfort for each child. Addy's Cup Of Sugar: Based on a Buddhist Story of Healing (Scholastic Press, October 20, 2020) written and illustrated by Jon J Muth is a book for those mourning and missing a special individual.  It's an explanation of how death, as a part of life, connects us.

Addy and her pet kitten were best friends.
They did everything together.

She called him Trumpet because of his meow.  They woke up together.  Neither started their day without the other.

Abruptly, this changed one day.  Addy and her family recently moved.  Trumpet died when a car hit the kitten near their new home.  Addy was heartbroken.  She wanted Trumpet back.  She knew her friend Stillwater, a panda, could help her.

Stillwater, saddened for Addy, offered sympathy and a solution, a medicine.  One of the necessary ingredients was a cup of sugar.  It had to be borrowed from someone untouched by death.  Addy ran to the closest house to borrow a cup of sugar.

There a little girl assured her they had sugar, but her grandfather died the previous week.  From house to house Addy ran, but no one was untouched by death.  Taking a break Addy recalled an antic Trumpet performed.  She told Trumpet she was working as hard as she could to bring him back.  Addy kept remembering and then her mind and heart and the end of the day worked its magic.  In his wisdom, Stillwater knew the medicine Addy needed.

With his words, author Jon J Muth establishes the close bond between Addy and her kitten Trumpet.  He speaks with a heart that knows the strength of affection between humans and animals.  With respect for his readers, he does not sugarcoat the kitten's death, stating it briefly and with truth. His blend of text and dialogue gives his signature interpretation of this Buddhist teaching the capacity for comprehension by his intended audience.  Here is a passage.

Addy ran through the backyards
and beneath the laundry that hung
on clotheslines.  The linen sheets that
brushed against her skin felt like
Trumpet's rough tongue.

She never knew what a cat's
tongue felt like until she met

On the front, right, of the matching dust jacket and book case, using shades of complementary golden yellow and rich purple, Jon J Muth casts a comforting spell on readers.  We know Trumpet is a shadow of his former self here.  Stillwater, giver of knowledge, stands next to Addy as she embraces the sad reality of her loss.  This image extends to the left edge of the spine.

On the other side of the spine we are shown a portion of a double-page interior illustration.  It is the picture enhancing the text above noted.  On the top part Addy is running across grass along the side of hanging sheets on a clothesline.  Beneath the grass, on the lower half, Trumpet, enlarged, is running with her.  The kitten appears to be sketched in charcoal chalk.

The opening and closing endpapers are covered in the palest of robin's egg blue.  It's nearly white.  On the title page, Trumpet, seated, looks kindly at readers.  A tin measuring cup is placed to the right of Trumpet.  Stillwater's red umbrella hangs on the verso page.  On the dedication page Stillwater, lounging on the grass, is playing with Trumpet.

These images by Jon J Muth were rendered using

watercolor and pencil on d'Arches paper.  

They are single-page pictures framed in white, or dramatic double-page pictures, page edge to page edge.  Conveying a soft gentleness, they invite readers into the story.  We view each visual with different perspectives; some close to Addy and others as if we are standing back from her.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is the first one.  It is a single-page picture.  Addy is squatting on a large boulder, her light brown/blond hair in a braided pigtail down the center of her striped shirt.  Her hands are outstretched and reaching down to Trumpet.  Trumpet is perched on a much smaller boulder, a large rock.  This rock and Addy's boulder are in water with many smaller rocks around them.  Their reflections in the still pool are beautiful.  The light and shadows indicate a sunny afternoon with the slightest hint of light blue wash around the kitten and child.  It is a poignant portrait of shared love.

Addy's Cup Of Sugar: Based on a Buddhist Story of Healing written and illustrated by Jon J Muth is an important book allowing all of us to see how death is inevitable and a part of life.  This book helps us to bear the sadness because we are not alone in this grief.  At the close of the book Jon J Muth, in an Author's Note, talks about the Buddhist legend and his views on life and death.  I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections.

I could not locate any website or social media connections for Jon J Muth but I did locate an article here and an interview here in American Libraries.  At the publisher's website you can view excerpts from the book.  This includes the title page.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

"My Heart's Devotion"

There is usually a song, or a group of songs, which define portions of our lives.  One record (vinyl) which captured the attention of a young teen in the 1960s was the soundtrack for the movie, West Side Story.  To her parent's probable annoyance, it was played nonstop.  Can you imagine her joy when her high school sweetheart took her to see the production at the nearby Michigan State University Fairchild Theatre?  She hummed and sang her favorite songs for months and months after seeing the show in person.

One of those songs was America. In the movie it is sung by the actress who plays the part of Anita.  A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer! (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, November 3, 2020) written by Anika Aldamuy Denise with illustrations by Leo Espinosa presents to readers the remarkable life of the woman who never stopped believing in or pursuing her dreams.

Juncos, Puerto Rico, 1935
In a tiny cottage tucked between El Yunque Peak and
a wild fragrant rainforest lives a girl: a girl with the rhythm
of the rainforest in her feet and the sweetness of the
sugarcane fields in her swishing skirts.

This girl is named Rosita Dolores Alverio.  Dancing and singing are like the breath of life to her.  When she is a little girl, she and her Mami leave Puerto Rico.  Her younger brother, Francisco, stays there.  Even the sight of the Statue of Liberty cannot not dim her sadness.  School is difficult for Rosita.  Students bully her because of her physical characteristics and the way she speaks.

She asks Mami repeatedly when Francisco will come.  She practices her English alone.  Her Mami works very hard at multiple jobs.  Spring and summer eventually come to New York City.  Missing the wonderful landscape of Puerto Rico lessens.

When she is six, her Mami takes her to receive dance lessons from Paco Cansino.  After three years, she is ready to perform in front of an audience.  Her dancing roles increase as do her speaking roles in Spanish.  She longs for a starring role.  At sixteen, Rosita takes the name of her stepfather, Moreno.  To her great joy, Louis B. Mayer of MGM studios requests an interview.  At the studio in Hollywood, they shorten her name to Rita Moreno.  

Although she has signed with MGM, her roles are not what she desires.  They are often stereotypical.  She persists.  Her persistence is rewarded in 1959.  She is cast as Anita in West Side Story after a stellar test performance, where she becomes Puerto Rico through dance and song.  At the Academy Award ceremony in 1962, the little girl, now a woman, makes history as the first Hispanic woman to win an Oscar.  (I'll bet the cheering was heard for days.)

The true spirit of Rosita Dolores Alverio, Rita Moreno, is presented on the first page and throughout the narrative by author Anika Aldamuy Denise per her descriptive single action words, dialogue, and the inclusion of Spanish language.  The text is a constant revelation of Rosita's thoughts, making the learning of her life an intimate experience for readers.  We can feel, layer by layer, an emotional moment building.  At times to enhance the storytelling rhythm Anika Aldamuy Denise employs alliteration.  A wonderful additional technique is to bookend the beginning and end with a place name and date showcasing the changes in this accomplished woman's life.  Here is a passage.

If she only knew more ingles, she could tell the bullies:
!Dejenme in paz! Leave me alone!

So while Mami scrubs and scours and sweats and sews,
Rosita practices ingles in secret.

The warmth of the color palette on the open and matching dust jacket and book case wraps around readers.  It also radiates great joy.  It is easy for readers to see the little girl still shining in the grown woman.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of red, some elements from an interior image are used.  Rita is now in Hollywood.  Her chair is placed on a large wooden crate.  Next to it is a megaphone.  A gentleman paints her name, Rita Moreno, on the back of her director-style chair.  A woman, a make-up artist, brushes Rita's cheek.  A camera and floodlight are also present.

The opening and closing endpapers are the vivid pink shown in a few brush strokes on the front of the jacket and book case.  On the initial title page (single) we are treated to a scene of Rosita's village.  On the formal title page, a double-page picture, we are brought close to the yard of a single home in this village.  Rosita and a chicken are running from the left to the right.  She, the chicken and main title are framed by buildings and trees and shrubs.  

Each of the illustrations by Leo Espinosa digitally rendered in Adobe Photoshop span two pages, or single pages.  They are highly animated, full of real people living their best lives.  Leo Espinosa brings us deeply into the story with his perspectives.  We are there with Rosita as she looks out the ship's window at her younger brother and Papi on the dock.  When she is being bullied by her classmates, we feel her despair.  When Rosita dances her first dance on stage we see Puerto Rico mirrored in her movements.  It's the details Leo Espinosa includes here, and in each image, which elevates the words of author Anika Aldamuy Denise.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when Rita is practicing for her audition for Anita in West Side Story.  It is a double-page picture with a darker background.  In spot colors, swirls of blue and purple, Rita has been placed.  In each of these six positions she is alive with dance movements.  She is wearing a hot pink dress with layers to her skirt, falling in waves about her legs.  Her happiness at dancing becomes our happiness.

For those who have ever dreamed big and wondered if that dream is achievable, A Girl Named Rosita: The Story of Rita Moreno: Actor, Singer, Dancer, Trailblazer! written by Anika Aldamuy Denise with illustrations by Leo Espinosa will serve to inspire them.  This women, now in her late eighties, is still a force of nature, having acquired a part in the remake of West Side Story by Steven Spielberg, slated to be released in 2021.  At the close of the book is a Timeline, Selected Bibliography, Articles and Quotation Sources, and an Author's Note. You will want to have this glorious biography as part of your professional and personal collections.

To access more information about Anika Aldamuy Denise and Leo Espinosa and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Anika Aldamuy Denise has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Leo Espinosa has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.  Please take a few moments to enjoy the cover reveal post for this book and educator T. J. Shay's interview with Anika Aldamuy Denise at KidLit TV.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Two Times The Glee #2

All you have to do is spend time outdoors watching wildlife or observe your family animal members to realize they are the source of constant comedy.  Their physical characteristics, mannerisms, and individual personalities mirror the exuberance in which they embrace life.  Unlike many humans, they have perfected the art of living in the moment.

These very qualities offer inventive authors and illustrators the opportunity to place them as characters in their narratives.  In her debut picture book as both author and illustrator Rebecca Jordan-Glum offers readers a look at a first encounter and the consequences of this meeting.  The Trouble with Penguins (Roaring Brook Press, November 3, 2020) shows readers exactly the kind of mischief penguins (and people) can generate when they forget the truth of together.

On the day the penguin discovered the person, everything changed.

The child, seated near a fire, was roasting a marshmallow. The penguin accepted the offer of the marshmallow, loving every bite of it.  The person showed the penguin how to roast marshmallows over an open fire.  

When it came time for the new pals to part, the child gave the penguin the best roasting stick.  When the penguin arrived among the other penguins, explaining the stick, the fire and marshmallows, they wanted to visit the person.  All was well with the group gathered around the fire, taking turns roasting a marshmallow until the acts of waiting and sharing were no longer accepted.  

All the penguins wanted their own fire.  What do you think the heat of all these individual blazes did to the ice?  It cracked into separate islands.  Now each penguin had a fire, a stick and roasted their own marshmallows.  For a time, they were happy, but doing something fun alone is not quite as fun as doing it together.  

Fortunately, penguins (like people) were apt, after careful thought, to make another decision.  One searched its memory, making comparisons.  A joyful beginning should be savored . . . repeatedly.

With her first two sentences author Rebecca Jordan-Glum establishes a storytelling rhythm.  She introduces a phrase which is repeated several more times, connecting important portions of the tale.  Her conversational phrases sprinkled with dialogue and asides in parenthesis are engaging in the most charming way.  Here is a passage.

"Oh, hello! I'm roasting marshmallows.
Would you like one?"

Of course the penguin would 
like a marshmallow. (It liked
it very much, in fact!)

Looking at the front, right, of the open dust jacket, you are readily aware of the rascals these penguins might prove to be.  As they frame the child, wearing a startled expression, they are highly animated.  It's likely they are proposing something unexpected to the person.  On the left side, the left wing of the penguin crosses the spine extending to the left, back.  Here, on the back, on a snowy background is a single penguin.  A trail of tracks marks its path to the right.  It is happily marching home carrying the stick given to it by the person.

On the book case, the penguins, as a group, are following the first penguin back to the child.  You can tell by their movements, body postures, and open mouths, they are excited.  They are placed on a snowy landscape filled with mounds and mountains.  The color palette of white, black, and shades of blue and purple create a pleasantly chilly setting.

An enormous panoramic view is spread across the opening endpapers.  It's a bird-eye view with the person's cabin, smoke coming from the chimney, small in the foreground in the far, left-hand lower corner.  Off to the right is a cluster of penguins, tiny and nearly centered.  The closing endpapers deliver a delightful conclusion.

Each image varies in size with respect to the story and its pacing.  We begin with a double-page picture, followed by two loosely framed images on a single page, and a full-page picture.  Not only do the sizes alternate but so do the perspectives.  There are three very expressive double-page illustrations with no words.  Everything works beautifully to supply readers with illustrations which envelope them.    Readers will enjoy the facial features on the child and the penguins, smiling at every page turn.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  On a sea of hues of blue, purple, and pink are nine individual ice islands.  Five are on the left side.  Two cross the gutter.  And two are on the right.  The penguins are participating in a variety of activities.  One of them is balancing on the tip of a piece of ice, using the stick to balance.  Another is using the stick as a pole to twirl around and around suspending itsel- in the air.  Two penguins with ice islands next to each other have a single stick between them, each grasping one end with their wing.  A fish is jumping over the stick.  

Enchanting and humorous The Trouble with Penguins written and illustrated by Rebecca Jordan-Glum is a book to be relished repeatedly like the perfectly roasted marshmallow.  It is full of warmth like the cozy open fire shared by the person and the penguins.  You'll want this title in your personal and professional collections for a storytime featuring a cold or winter setting, a study of penguins, for a discussion to promote the sharing associated with true friendship, and for its wonderful storytelling.

To learn more about Rebecca Jordan-Glum and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  She has activities related to this book there for you.  Rebecca Jordan-Glum has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.

In his newest offering Mike Boldt introduces us to a bear who needs encouragement in the art of playing a classic game.  He continually falls short in the main objective.  Find Fergus (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, November 3, 2020) is a read aloud treasure from beginning to end.  Fergus has a face and disposition guaranteed to create laughter.  

We already found you!
That was too easy.
Try hiding again.

This big, spectacle-wearing bear has zero capacity for hiding.  First, he stands in the open.  Next, he stands off to the side as if he is as thin as a piece of thread.  On his third attempt he stands behind a sapling, thinking his closed eyes will help.

The unseen narrator suggests blending in with a crowd.  Fergus does not grasp that concept either.  One fox and one duck are not a crowd.

Fergus does find larger, much larger groups but he still does not understand.  A bear is like a blinding star in a group of rabbits or even among larger animals.  Even a disguise similar to the animals where you strive to hide will not work.

By now Fergus is understanding a little bit, but he still needs to comprehend the fine art of hiding.  A brown bear with polar bears is not concealing oneself.  A countdown begins from ten to one.  Wowee!  Now that's the proper method for hiding, Fergus.

Having an unseen narrator, the readers, tell this story heightens the shared fun.  This is a wonderful technique by author Mike Boldt.  Short sentences in the form of comedic commentary, with carefully chosen words, move the story briskly with humor to its triumphant conclusion.  Here is a passage.

That's the right size . . .
but you're NOT a moose.

Still not a moose, Fergus.
Try bears.

Truthfully, I cannot look at the front, right, of the matching dust jacket and book case without laughing.  Fergus, his wide-eyed look amplified by his glasses, is trying without any luck to hide.  Title text does not make a good camouflage, Fergus.    On the back, to the left, the text reads:

Found you, Fergus!
Now go hide IN
this book so we
can come find you.

Here on the continued yellow canvas Fergus is down on all fours behind the ISBN.  His front portion and behind stick out prominently.  

The opening and closing endpapers, still with a yellow background, feature a sheet of paper.  It is 

The List of Things to Find.

There are only two things to find on the opening endpapers list.  On the closing endpapers list there are fourteen.  This longer list refers to the conclusion.  

For most of the story there is an image on the left with text in black on yellow on the right.  The text is in response to Fergus's latest action.  Fergus's actions are placed on a crisp white background, so the full-color elements stand out.  What accentuates the merriment is the facial features on all the animals.  Their eyes, mouths, and body postures are certain to invite readers to pause on every page turn.  The four-page gatefold will have readers gasping and laughing out loud.

One of my favorite illustrations is when Fergus does try to blend in with bears.  Choosing to stand among polar bears when you are a brown bear is not being out of sight. It brings to mind the phrase "Sticking out like a sore thumb." Nineteen polar bears clustered around Fergus are in various positions with all kinds of looks on their faces.  This is one of many pictures which will have you giggling or bursting out in laughter.

Find Fergus written and illustrated by Mike Boldt takes the game of hide-and-seek to a whole new level.  As a read aloud listeners will be laughing louder and louder at every page turn.  I know you will get requests to read it again.  A copy of this title will be a welcome addition on your personal and professional bookshelves.  

To learn more about Mike Boldt and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Mike Boldt has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vimeo, and YouTube.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pictures.  Mike Boldt and this book are featured on author Tara Lazar's Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).

Friday, November 13, 2020

A Snow-tastic Spell

Earlier this week, a wild rain and windstorm raged through our entire state.  Along the Great Lakes in northern Michigan waves rose and trees bent from these forces.  This event heralded the arrival of much colder conditions.  Clouds spit snow earlier this morning.

Winter is nature's seasonal pause.  Now is the time to enjoy this yearly rest. Ten Ways To Hear Snow (KOKILA, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, October 13, 2020) written by Cathy Camper with illustrations by Kenard Pak follows a little girl as she walks to her grandmother's house after a nightly blizzard.  It is a sensory sensation.

When Lina woke up, everything was quiet.

Everything was coated in snow.  There were no sounds of vehicles on the move.  Despite the weather, today was the day she and her grandmother were making warak enab with grape leaves.  Dressed snuggly, her parents allowed her to go.

As she stood outside Lina wondered if this was how Sitti, her grandmother, sensed the world.  Were the sounds she heard gentler?  Were they sharper?

As she traveled to Sitti's home specific sounds were noted by Lina.  The music of a shovel on a sidewalk, of the bite of the bottoms of her boots in the snow, and of snow swept off car roofs and windshields were the first few she heard.  Activities of children made new sounds.  Lina listened to cross-country skiers and snowman makers.

Lina finally arrived at her grandmother's building.  She had heard eight snow sounds.  After greeting her grandmother, they cooked together, step by careful step.  They imagined what the rolled, grape leaf bundles might be other than food.  Eating their meal, Lina talked with Sitti about the blizzard.  She was surprised at an answer her grandmother gave to a question.  Then, side by side and outside wrapped in warmth and love, they heard the final sound of snow.  

Like Lina gathering sounds of snow, author Cathy Camper, piece by piece, creates a tapestry for readers of the world after a blizzard and of familial affection.  Her concise sentences, some with dialogue, are a realistic reflection of Lina, her parents and her Sitti.  Each sound Lina hears is accurately depicted with her meticulous use of language.  There is a soothing rhythm supplied by the introduction of the sound and Lina's response.  Here is a passage.

Lina cut across the park.

Scritch, scratch, scritch, scratch.

Another snow sound?
Lina saw long, skinny tracks by her boots.  Ahead of her,
people were skiing.  Their skis made the fifth way to hear snow.

The silvery, white-coated world is eloquently portrayed, first to readers, on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  On the dust jacket it extends flap edge to flap edge.  The frosty clarity is so real you can imagine yourself standing with Lina and Sitti.  They are shown on the front of the jacket and case as they appear together on the closing page.  On the back the community buildings and trees with branches reaching out and up like arms, continue.  Text nestled between boughs in the snow-filled sky read:


A sage green color covers the opening and closing endpapers.  A darker green, complementary to the endpapers, is used to form a snowflake made of grape leaves on the title page.  This single, enlarged snowflake is placed beneath the text.

Rendered digitally Kenard Pak's artwork, on single and double pages, is delicate and intricate.  His details draw readers deeper into the story.  With care he uses darker colors on his characters and certain elements in each setting.  Other items are lighter and etched.

His perspectives, a scene viewed through an upstairs window with curtains acting as framing, a panoramic view of Lina's street, and a bird's eye view of her walking in the snow afford readers a genuine experience.  When Lina enters Sitti's home we are shown a view of the outside of her apartment and one inside with Lina in four different places.  For the making of warak enab, he provides us with a page showing the four stages of filling and folding the grape leaves.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when Lina is walking, listening, and hearing her boot soles on the snow.  The crisp white background in broken by blue-shadowed footprints leading to Lina walking off the right side of this single-page picture.  Text appears above and below the footprints and Lina.  Of Lina, we see her hat, scarf, coat, legs, and boots from above.  A small portion of the bag with the grape leaves in her right hand is there.  This is a marvelous view.

Besides being an enchanting encounter within a wintry realm, Ten Ways To Hear Snow written by Cathy Camper with illustrations by Kenard Pak asks readers to take a respite in their normal, daily lives.  It challenges them to seek other sounds present in snow.  This title is pure perfection for a winter-themed storytime or perhaps one revolving around being more present in the moments of movements between awakening and sleep.  I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections.

By following the link attached to Cathy Camper's and Kenard Pak's names, you can access their websites to learn more about them and their other work.  Cathy Camper has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Kenard Pak has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.

The silence in the mornings as the sun rises is complete.  Many of our feathered friends have flown to more southern regions for winter.  Others that remain have distinctive times of the day when they make appearances.  Fortunate are those who see a flash of red, reminding us of the presence of cardinals.  Sometimes when the sun shines brightly, chick-a-dees will gather in the trees, singing.  Blue jays squawk and swoop, sometimes alone or in a pair.  At dark, the hooting of an owl signals their nightly rituals.  Snow Birds (Abrams Books for Young Readers, November 3, 2020) written by Kirsten Hall with pictures by Jenni Desmond is a poetic, pictorial ode to those birds who remain in winter or thrive in colder climates.  Eighteen poems about seventeen birds will have you seeking their presence every time you step outside.

Blue Jay
Look! In the tree! A blue jay feeder.
Carved with care from fine red cedar.
Hung with love, set facing east,
a call to all:  It's a peanut feast! . . .

A Carolina wren seeks a home.  Where will they find a cozy place to rest?  Snow buntings flock and fly painting a pattern in the sky.  In formation snow geese weather the snow, finding a place to sleep.

Black rosy-finches call and look for food before they head for shelter.  An Atlantic puffin dives, beak open, and feeds on fish.  A hawk sits statue still as a swarm of Bohemian waxwings tantalize it.  

Under the snow a hollowed house is filled with the feathered body of a ruffed grouse.  Do you hear them call?  A snowy owl hoots for all listening to hear.  

Many days their distinctive songs echo across the landscape.  If you are lucky, they will land near you, these black-capped chickadees.  Grateful American tree sparrows gather to feed on seed.  What is that drum-like beat?  It's a downy woodpecker finding a meal, making a hole for a nest, and hoping for a mate.  Winter is nearly over.  Spring is easing back.  There is a brief glimpse of red.  Northern cardinals welcome this change with their tunes.  And the blue jays find joy in a new nest.

With a passion for her subject, author Kirsten Hall writes her verses showcasing the characteristics and habits of each bird.  She highlights those specifics which separate them from other birds within the context of all of them surviving in harsher conditions.  She uses rhyming masterfully, blending the bird calls into her narrative.  Her words sing off the pages.  Here is an entire poem.

Snow Goose
Snowflakes whirling,

snow-flocks swirling,

streaks of white

twirl through

the night.  Then




a good night. 

(This poem is presented with the words, across two pages, forming a v above and below a flock flying in formation.)

From a single goose we hear:

Ki-ki-ki-ki! Ki-ki-ki-ki!
Ki-ki-ki-ki! Ki-ki-ki-ki!

Luminescent illustrations by Jenni Desmond are presented on the open dust jacket, front and back.  The northern cardinals on the front form a striking contrast to the snowy setting in cool colors.  Held to the light, snowflakes shimmer as the jacket is moved back and forth.  To the left, on the back, a snowy owl sits on top of a nearly white dune.  Above it a dark sky presents a perfect canvas for the crescent moon.  On the black sky words read:

"A soulful, vivid look at the
hidden world at winter birds."
---New York City Audubon

On the book case the snow geese are featured in their V-shaped arrangement, one bird flying from the upper, left-hand corner to the front bird flying off the center, right-hand side.  The lower side of the v has the final two birds close to the spine. The birds' wings, some up and some down, and some back, indicate their beautiful movement.  They are presented on a gray streaked canvas with snow falling.  This picture is eloquent enough to have you believing you can hear them.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a stark winter landscape.  A thin ribbon of blue is spread across the top.  Beneath this is snow.  Along the bottom is a trail of bird tracks.  On the closing endpapers one element is added.  The bird who made the tracks.

On the title page all seventeen birds are shown around and among the text.  Each double-page picture rendered by Jenni Desmond using

watercolor, acrylic, pencil crayons, ink, drypoint printmaking, and Photoshop

displays a knowledge of setting, habitats, and the birds.  

The details are breathtaking.  The placement of text within the images reveals a superb sense of design. 

Sometimes we are close to the birds when they are feeding among branches.  Other times they are placed in a larger world.  A large snowy vista spans two pages with a dark gray sky, a line of trees, branches bare, and a single bird feeder standing in the snow in the foreground on the right.  A flock of American tree sparrows gladly gather.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the black-capped chick-a-dee.  For this two-page image the canvas is black.  The poem is on the right side, text in white.  On the left enveloped by the black, as if cupped in hands, is a single small chick-a-dee.  This is a stunning depiction.

For a unit on winter, birds, or broadening your knowledge of our natural world, Snow Birds written by Kirsten Hall with artwork by Jenni Desmond is an excellent choice.  At the close of the book are seventeen additional paragraphs, one for each bird.  Kirsten Hall includes an author's note in the form of a letter to readers.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Jenni Desmond and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Kirsten Hall has an account on Twitter.  Jenni Desmond has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Seeking Reading

Throughout the United States and around the globe, there are specific structures, statues, and natural monuments or areas distinctive to specific places.  We don't need a sign or a map to know where we are.  Those formations are as familiar to us as the place we call home.  

If we see Mount Kilimanjaro, we know we are in Tanzania, Africa.  We know we are in Paris, France if we see the Eiffel Tower.  Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon signifies we are in the state of Arizona.  When we face an enormous building and see statues of resting lions on either side of the steps leading to the large entrance, we know we are about to walk inside the New York Public Library.  These statues are the main characters in recent publications. The first, Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience & Fortitude (Henry Holt and Company, August 28, 2018) written by Josh Funk with illustrations by Stevie Lewis, takes readers through the wonders to be found in this marvelous institution as one lion searches for the other missing lion.  These artistic collaborators created a companion title, Where Is Our Library (A Story of Patience & Fortitude) (Henry Holt and Company, October 27, 2020).  In this newest adventure the duo discovers the contents of their favorite place have disappeared.

Just after midnight, as all New York dozed,
Silently dreaming in bed,
The last of the shops and the markets had closed,
When Fortitude lifted his head.

Now Patience was awake.  The twosome was ready to spend the night reading.  They enjoyed wandering around the New York Public Library when it was empty of patrons but not empty of books!  The children's room was bookless!

Fortitude lead Patience to the bright lights in the center of the city, but the books were not in Times Square.  Patience proposed a plan.  Off the friends went to the sanctuary and past Central Park Zoo.  

Arriving at the pond, the 

clever old man with the hat

had not a clue.  Alice (of Wonderland) suggested another statuesque literary fellow might assist them.  HCA gave them a list of buildings to browse.  Off the pals went from branch to branch, finding old and new stories but not their well-known tales.  As the hours rushed past, the lions knew they needed to move fast.

Even the recommendation of a kite dragon failed to yield results.  The approach of dawn started to light the sky. The dejected lions headed back to rest.  Within mere minutes of home, they made a surprising discovery.  Indeed, to read was to succeed.

Author Josh Funk has a knack for fashioning poetic narratives.  In this tale of the two lions, the first and third, and second and fourth lines of each paragraph rhyme.  Although dialog is part of these paragraphs; the rhythm flows flawlessly.  We move through the night with curiosity, concern, and longing at each stop along with the feline friends.  Here are two passages.

"I once heard the tale of a clever old man
Who sits with a hat in the park.
I'll bet if we ask him, he'll help if he can."
With that, they ran off in the dark.

They entered the park by some fancy hotels
And skirted a fountain or two.
Stealthy as foxes and swift as gazelles,
They scurried by Central Park Zoo.

When you open the dust jacket, the cityscape with lights glowing in windows continues its nocturnal vista on the other side of the spine to the left edge of the back.  Neatly, here, the first title fits into the buildings with this text,

Patience and Fortitude,
the noble lions---and best friends---
who stand guard in front of the famed
New York Public Library,
are ready for their next adventure.

The lively figures of Patience and Fortitude on the right, front, speculate where they might journey to locate the missing books.  Clearly, they are enjoying the sights of the city. 

On the book case a matte-finished black is the canvas for architectural etchings of buildings.  They are done in the golden yellow shown on the front of the dust jacket for the title text.  The buildings are placed to emphasize perspective.

On the opening and closing endpapers we find Patience and Fortitude on a black background.  On both sets of pages tiny floral details are present.  In the first endpapers, the lions look forlornly at only six books between them.  An abundance of books, most of them open, appear with the duo on the closing endpapers.  The two lions are at rest in the top corners of a wide column of text reading:

The Sights of Where Is Our Library? 

Six bulleted sections offer further information.

On the verso, dedication, and title pages Patience and Fortitude are walking toward the Children's Center with a single light illuminating them.  A thin line of light comes from the Children's Center doorway.  Each two-page picture and single-page image is a marvelous portrait of the lions, the New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, sights in the city, and other branches of the library by illustrator Stevie Lewis.  The color palette accentuating nighttime is wonderful!

Readers will by enthralled by her attention to detail along with her literary liberties.  The marquees in Times Square glimmer with the names of books and references to felines.  When Patience and Fortitude enter the branch libraries careful readers will see more beloved book titles like Ida, Always, Nana in the City, Red & Lulu, The Gardener, and The Curious Garden

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page visual.  It shows the feline friends traveling through Central Park.  Many of the prominent features of the park are shown.  They start in the upper, left-hand corner looping back and forth, cross the gutter and loop around the pond to the group of statues from Alice in Wonderland.  Their trip is highlighted by longer dashes in a contrasting hue to the shades of night, but alike those colors in the carousel.  

Whether readers live in or near New York City or thousands of miles away, they will be captivated by the explorations found in Where Is Our Library? (A Story of Patience & Fortitude) written by Josh Funk with artwork by Stevie Lewis.  You'll want to use this in a storytime about libraries, books, reading, or for the sheer fun of adventure.  I know your personal and professional collections will benefit from having a copy of this book.

To learn more about Josh Funk and Stevie Lewis and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Josh Funk has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.  Stevie Lewis has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr.  Both Josh Funk and Stevie Lewis are guests at Maria Marshall's site.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  There is also an activity guide for both books.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Striding Through

There was once a girl who loved to study the weather and make predictions. (She still does.) She was also terrified of storms.  She understood the power they unleashed.  Whenever the sky would darken, panic coursed through her body.  She was well into her middle years before she faced her fear.  By replacing this raw worry with respect, it made her stronger.

Today our climate and our weather are changing globally, creating frightening phenomena. These phenomena leave devasting results in their wake.  Children are rightfully concerned.  I Am The Storm (RISE Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, October 27, 2020) by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple with illustrations by Kristen Howdeshell and Kevin Howdeshell explores extremes in weather and our responses as families and communities.  

When the wind howled and blew,
loud as a train, . . .

During a tornado, a family with their grandmother seeks shelter in their basement.  Flashlights cast their glow on games played and books read.  When the wind calms, the daughter, after helping with clean-up, swirls around the yard, doing her own dance like a tornado.

A blizzard and a power outage provide the opportunity for food to be cooked over a fire built for warmth.  A wildfire chases a family to a nearby lake for safety.  They enjoy their natural surroundings.  Back at home, gathered flowers are given to community members hard at work cleaning and clearing.

During a hurricane, wind and water combine to create multiple dangers.  Families leave, locating higher ground and protecting themselves by moving inland.  After the hurricane passes, damage assessments are made at residences.

Readers are reminded fear is as natural as the perils they face.  It is essential for them to realize, they too have forces within themselves.  Each child is compared to the event they experience.  They understand their abilities and the range of those abilities.  This is power.

For each phenomenon, four, authors Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple supply readers with a repetitive cadence, a group of three.  It's an invitation for readers, welcoming them into the narrative.  This leads us to the strong connected conclusion.  The authors also provide vivid descriptions of each of the three portions of the four events.  These portrayals give us firsthand insights.  Here is a passage.

When the ice and snow fell,
sparkling like fairy dust on the windows,
and all the lights went out,
we made a fire
and cooked hot dogs and marshmallows.

The storm on the prairie showcased on the front, right, of the open dust jacket crosses the spine and extends to the far left on the back.  It is a dramatic depiction of dark purple and black swirls complementing the golden oranges and yellows of the countryside.  Another building on the farm, is placed on the back with a third in the far distance.  The remoteness and flatness of the plains is represented beautifully.

On the book case a hue of purple shown on the dust jacket covers both the front and the back.  White, streaking drops of rain slant slightly to the right, from the top to the bottom.  We are in the storm.  

The opening and closing endpapers are a marbleized blend of teal and yellow.  On the second set a single bird flies toward the right edge.  The bird carrying a small branch signifies the final words of the book.

The art is sketched in pencil and the finishes are rendered in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet 

by illustrators Kristen Howdeshell and Kevin Howdeshell.  The initial title page is a continuous of the canvas seen on the endpapers.  Above and below the text are branches similar to the one carried by the bird.  On the formal verso and title pages, we are in the thick of the storm.

Each page turn reveals a stunning double-page picture.  We move flawlessly from the event, to the family, and to the land and people after the tornado, blizzard, wildfire, and hurricane.  As the narrative directs us to resolutions and empowering words, the elements in each illustration reflect those changes.  The color palette shifts with the incident, season and place in which it happens.  A diverse group of people are shown in each setting.  These images connect us in a very real way to those people.  Each one is an eloquently captured moment.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is after the first storm.  We have come closer to the farmhouse shown on the front, right, of the dust jacket.  The sky is cream-colored with a rising red sun between the home and red truck.  One of the trees is toppled from the storm.  An adult is mending the fence to the right of the truck.  These portions of the scene are on the left side and to the back.  In the foreground on the right side a bird perches on the top of a fence post.  Other pieces of the fence lay on the ground.  The little girl, wearing a red dress, tights, and cowboy boots is spinning around with her arms spread out.  Her hair moves up and out.  There is a special warmth in this illustration, it is one of celebration.

This book, I Am The Storm written by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple with illustrations by Kristen Howdeshell and Kevin Howdeshell, is an important book.  It tells readers they can survive and be strong as they face their fears.  It offers courage and peace.  At the close of the book further information in the form of four paragraphs is provided about tornadoes, blizzards, wildfires, and hurricanes.  I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Jane Yolen, Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Kristen Howdeshell, and Kevin Howdeshell, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Jane Yolen has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Heidi E. Y. Stemple has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Kristen Howdeshell and Kevin Howdeshell share an account on Instagram and two accounts on Twitter (Twitter.)  At the publisher's website you can view the initial title page.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

A Life Story-A Life Of Stories

Every time we hear the story of a person's life, our life story is enriched.  Our connection to the world as a whole is enlarged.  Our understanding of people and the places and events in their lives is better informed.  Their history becomes a part of our history.  

There are people who quietly change the world significantly.  Fortunately, we are made aware of their purpose through the adept work of children's authors and illustrators.  William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad (Peachtree Publishing Company Inc., November 1, 2020) written and illustrated by Don Tate engages readers through a meticulously researched narrative and atmospheric, dramatic, and realistic illustrations. 
This story begins
at a time when the United States
was split in two.

In the North,
Black people were free.
In the South,
they were enslaved by whites.

Parents, Levin and Sidney Steel, were held in slavery in Maryland.  They had four children.  Levin purchased his freedom and left.  Sidney, ran away with her two daughters, leaving her sons.  (Can you imagine the heartache of the choices these parents made?)

Levin and Sidney found each other in the woods of New Jersey and managed through a great deal of hardship to survive.  Their youngest child, of now fifteen, was born in 1821.  They gave him the name of William.

Early in his life, at eight years of age, William was known in his neighborhood as one to be trusted and as one who would always lend a helping hand.  Life in the North, however free it was, was never easy for a Black man or woman.  William was seventeen before he could attend school safely.  At twenty-three, William went to Philadelphia.  Life there for three years was miserable, hard work, barely enough to eat and no home. 

It was when William went to work for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society as a clerk that his life changed for the better.  Although his pay was meager, William became office manager through his diligence and hard work.  His home became a stop on the Underground Railroad.  William spoke with the visitors who stopped at his station.  One man, who was enslaved for 40 years, told a story which would change many lives.

This man's story prompted William to start keeping a written record of all the stories.  He wrote down the escaped slaves' names, their physical characteristics, who enslaved them, where they lived, and where they wanted to go.  His work inside and outside of the Society increased but was put in danger by the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.

William Still protected his written journals with a clever plan.  After fourteen years at the Society, he left to become one of the most prominent businessmen of his time.  He continued to work for the betterment of Black people and their rights with several achievements. His book, The Underground Rail Road was published in 1872. 

Gripping, heartbreaking, and triumphant are words to use when describing this narrative penned by Don Tate.  The truth of William's life and of the lives around him are told in detail with specific incidents in support of those truths.  When Don Tate tells the story of this man's life it is more vivid through his use of language.  He speaks with the words of a storyteller, bringing us deep into the account.  Here is a passage.

First things first:
he needed a job, and a roof over his head.
Neither came readily.

For three long years,
William bounced
from low-paying job,
to low-paying job.

He threshed clamshells.
Hauled wood. Laid bricks.
He peddled oysters.
Dug wells. Hawked clothes.
He worked on a dock, then at a hotel.
Barely earning the smell of money.

Long, cold winters.  Grumbling belly.
No decent place to lay his head.
Not as glamorous
as the life he had imagined.

[I am working with an F & G]

Purple has long been a color representative of positive connotations.  By using it as the background on the front and back of the open dust jacket, this elevates the importance of Will Still's life to its rightful importance.  The design choice of having the figures of those lives William Still is recording in his book behind him is powerful.  William did this by hand with a quill dipped in ink.  He often wrote by candlelight.  To the left, on the back, an incident which changed the course of William's life is portrayed.  The words above this image read:

That's what stories can do.
Protest injustice.
Soothe. Teach. Inspire. Connect.
Stories save lives. 

Many of the elements on the front and the back are varnished.

On the opening and closing endpapers are enlarged representations of pages from William's journal.  On the second set of endpapers, at the conclusion, Don Tate has interpretated the writing for us.  Over each handwritten line is a typed line of what William said.  On the initial title page three individuals stand to the left of William as he writes in his journal.  On the formal title page beneath the text is a quill and ink well.

Each illustration,

rendered digitally

spans two page, a full page, or a page and one half creating a column for text.  Sometimes a smaller image will be placed in those columns containing text.  Don Tate for the sake of visual interpretation will break frames for artistic flow.  At one point a smaller picture is placed within a large one for a compelling depiction.  At every portion of William Still's life, Don Tate creates expressive moments, moments leaving a mark on your heart.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is one where eight-year-old William is shown leading a beaten, elderly man through the nearby woods at night.  This illustrations spans one-and-one-half pages.  To the left of the gutter, high on a hill, two slave hunters with a light seek the escaped slave.  To the right of the gutter, among the trees, William grasping the man's left hand, guides him.  The man is bent and hardly able to walk, but William, though barefoot like the man, is certain of their destination.  The tenseness of these moments is visible.  Darkness and light pair perfectly.

Readers will find themselves completely enthralled by this man's accomplishments when reading William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad written and illustrated by Don Tate.  At the close of the book is a The Life and Times of William Tell timeline, an Author's Note, and an informative three-part bibliography.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Don Tate and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Don Tate has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.  At the publisher's website is an excerpt, teacher's guide, and a poster.  Don Tate chats with Nick Patton at Picturebooking.  Please enjoy the video.