Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Worth The Wait

Upon waking each morning, many of us have daily ambitions.  Our choices hopefully aim us toward our desired direction.  Although life being what it is, our paths are rarely in a straight line. They are a series of zigs and zags and steps forward and back and back and forward again.

Whether we reach our aspirations for the day, with the fading light and start of night, we all, eventually, crave similar things.  Two autumnal titles draw our attention to this special time.  The first, A Story for Small Bear (Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, October 13, 2020) written by Alice B. McGinty with illustrations by Richard Jones, follows a cub trying to accomplish all that is required so she can receive her heart's desire.

When a late autumn wind
swirled into their den after noontime nap,
Small Bear shivered.  Brrrrr.

Mama knew today was the day to start their winter rest.  First, there was work to be done.  Small Bear needed to help for her wish to come true.  Small Bear had to remain focused. 

Spruce sprigs were gathered to add comfort to their cave.  Small Bear noticed and climbed into her favorite cozy hollow in the spruce tree.  She did not want to leave.  Remember the bitter wind, it blew, reminding her of what the day's end would bring.

There were two more stops.  There were two more tasks.  There were two more distractions.  


Small Bear did not want to leave but the icy wind pushed her to find Mama.  Mother and daughter walked to their den.  Inside, Small Bear asked Mama a question.  Her gentle but strong voice beginning with 

Once there lived . . .

was the answer Small Bear wanted to hear.  A promise was kept.

Using a combination of narrative and dialogue, author Alice B. McGinty weaves a tale of family, preparation, and the power of story.  Lyrical, descriptive phrases guide the characters and readers through the final day before a winter's rest begins.  Repetition of specific words and phrases supplies readers with a serene, but at times playful cadence.  Here is a passage.

No dilly.
She knew that's what Mama would say.
Still, she rolled and wriggled and played some more.

No dally, Small Bear thought.
But it was so hard to leave!

The textured, full color images on the open and matching dust jacket and book case ask readers to reach out to the characters, to join them.  On the front, framed by late summer and autumn flowers and leaves, Mama and Small Bear present the perfect picture of parental care.  By placing the bolder colors in the foreground with softer colors in the background, we are drawn into this moment of intimacy within a larger domain.

To the left of the spine, on the back, a portion of an interior illustration is used.  Small Bear is high in a tree, enjoying the acorns.  She has her head turned over her shoulder, watching the sun fading.  Beneath her the words read:

Small Bear wants to play---
but wind is biting,
winter knocking. . . .
Will she save time for stories?

On the pale cream canvas on the opening endpapers leaves in year-end colors are scattered.  The closing endpapers are a reflection of the change in the seasons.  Snowflakes of all sizes fall on a light turquoise background.  A close-up of a meadow scene with a bunny and a bird is placed between the text on the title page.


in acrylic and watercolor paint and edited in Adobe Photoshop

the illustrations by Richard Jones highly complement the text, elevating it in realistic, soothing, and marvelous scenes.  We are treated to double-page pictures, edge to edge, full-page images with rounded corners and some elements breaking the frame, smaller visuals in unusual shapes or gathered in geometric forms on two pages to provide pacing.  Perspective is altered to place the characters in their proper settings, but we are never far and sometimes very close to Small Bear and her endeavors.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  Small Bear is swimming in the river.  On the left the river winds between two shores, one filled with meadow flowers and the other a small grove of trees.  Mama is ambling to the left in the trees.  Close to us on the right Small Bear moves her paws splashing.  Water birds take flight above her.  The sky mirrors the time of day.

Play comes naturally for this little bear, but the words of her mother guide her toward her one wish before they sleep.  The strength of tale-telling rings true in A Story for Small Bear written by Alice B. McGinty with artwork by Richard Jones.  For a quiet time, bedtime, discussing the benefits of sharing tasks, or for the changing seasons, this book is one you will want to have on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Alice B. McGinty and Richard Jones and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  At Alice B. McGinty's website is a parenting guide to use along with this book.  At Richard Jones' website he has pictures from the book for you to see.  Alice B. McGinty has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Richard Jones has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At a publisher's website you can see the opening endpapers, the verso and title pages, and the first two pages.

Some of those things we hold closest to our hearts are as varied and individualistic as we all are.  Others are daily moments we share in common with a multitude of people.  It is in those common hours we find what makes us a part of a larger whole.  Mr. Brown's Bad Day (Candlewick Press, Nosy Crow. November 10, 2020) written by Lou Peacock with illustrations by Alison Friend is a comical and ultimately endearing day in the life of a distinguished tiger gentleman.

Mr. Brown was a very important businessman.
He always carried a very important briefcase,
and he worked in a very important office.

Mr. Brown made numerous financial decisions daily.  He was in and out of meetings.  Every minute was packed with very important activities.  Regardless of the hustle and bustle of working in the very important office, Mr. Brown never missed taking a break for lunch and bringing his very important briefcase with him.

One day as Mr. Brown was seated on a bench in the park eating his lunch, he did not see a baby grab his very important briefcase and take it away.  When he discovered it was missing, he was frantic.  Luckily, he saw the baby with the briefcase.  He followed it at a brisk walk.

In a quirk of fate, the very important briefcase was snagged on the cart of an ice cream peddler.  As the peddler paused his bicycle, Mr. Brown thought he was getting close to his very important briefcase. Yikes!  The very important briefcase is on the move again courtesy of a student on a field trip.  Every time Mr. Brown gets near his very important briefcase, it moves.  Dapper Mr. Brown is getting very frazzled.

Mr. Brown's day is not good.  Finally, looking worse for the wear, Mr. Brown catches up to the students and their teacher, roaring about his very important briefcase with invaluable items inside.  In the dark Mr. Brown walks home with his cherished possession and its contents.  Once there, he checks inside his very important briefcase.  Time for bed, Mr. Brown.

The sheer fun of this book by author Lou Peacock is how she wraps readers into the wild chase of Mr. Brown trying to retrieve his very important briefcase.  The use of the words very important and the words fortunately and unfortunately repeatedly generates hilarious tension.  We are so involved in the retrieval of the briefcase; the conclusion is the sweetest of surprises.  The blend of text and dialogue is exactly right bringing us deeper into Mr. Brown's dilemma.  Here is a passage.

Fortunately for Mr. Brown, the line was moving quickly  . . .

but unfortunately for Mr. Brown,
when the schoolchildren got off the ride,
they took Mr. Brown's very important
briefcase with them.

And then they went to catch the bus.

When readers look at the open and matching dust jacket and book case, they see from left to right a foreshadowing of events to come.  Against the blue building on the city sidewalk is the teacher and three students.  The teacher is a smartly dressed zebra with a kitten and alligator youngster trailing behind her.  On the front the pup is trying to warn Mr. Brown about the next disastrous step he is about to take.  There are three pigeons, two in flight, on the back.  As if the banana peel is not bad enough, notice the fourth pigeon above the W in the title text.  All the elements on the front of the dust jacket except for the sidewalk and building are varnished.

In lighter hues of blue, lightly shaded and outlines of buildings provide readers with a view of Mr. Brown's city on the opening and closing endpapers.  Light clouds, nearly like fog, cover the blue sky.  On the initial title page are three pigeons resting on the ground, looking for food.  On the formal title, verso and dedication pages, the cityscape is in the background.  Vehicles and city inhabitants move down the street and on the sidewalk.  Mr. Brown walks toward the right side of the double-page picture.  The author's and illustrator's names are placed on the side of a truck like a business name.

Mixed media

illustrations by Alison Friend cheerfully and humorously depict every portion of Mr. Brown's day.  The animals are highly animated with facial expressions revealing their moods.  Full-color images span two pages, single pages and sometimes two horizontal pictures are on a single page.  Readers will find themselves looking for extra details and additional pastimes within the visuals.  Alison Friend alters the perspective in keeping with the narrative as when Mr. Brown and others are standing on the ground looking up at the Ferris wheel ride as his very important briefcase goes higher and higher.  It is as if we are seated on the Ferris wheel looking down.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is a two-page picture when Mr. Brown is pursuing the baby elephant who picked up his briefcase.  The park path winds across from the upper left-hand corner to the lower, right-hand corner.  Mr. Brown is walking across the bridge in the upper, left-hand corner.  Along the way all kinds of children and their parents are engaged in a variety of pursuits.  A dropped ice cream cone (the baby elephant's) is being consumed by pigeons.  An alligator is soaking its feet in the park pond.  You can't look at this picture without smiling.

This book, Mr. Brown's Bad Day written by Lou Peacock with illustrations by Alison Friend, is a day to remember.  We come to understand through a delightfully funny series of mishaps why the very important briefcase has that designation.  I know readers will want to read or hear this book again and again.  I highly recommend it for your professional and personal collections.  Good night.  Sweet dreams.

To learn more about Lou Peacock, the link attached to her name takes you to the Nosy Crow page dedicated to her.  The link attached to Alison Friend's name takes you to her agency page.  Alison Friend has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website and Penguin Random House you can see interior images.

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