Quote of the Month

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

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).

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