Quote of the Month

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

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.

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