Quote of the Month

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

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.

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