Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Seeking The Bright Side

As an educator, one of the things you learn and remember about working with children is their constant ability to think outside the box.  Their cleverness and fresh points of view, given freedom and support, are astonishing.  Their compassion inspires. 

Never have they, never have we, been more tested than now, on a global level, for more than a year.  The losses have been unprecedented in this new normal.  Two recent titles, addressing unexpected change, provide us with deep insight and a way to seek and find hope.  Ten Beautiful Things (Charlesbridge, January 12, 2021) written by Molly Beth Griffin with illustrations by Maribel Lechuga follows the road trip of a girl to her new home with her grandmother.  She is not happy about this move.

Lily ran her finger across the Iowa map.
An X marked Gram's house
on an empty patch of land.
Lily's new home.

With a long drive ahead of them, Gram suggests they search for ten beautiful things.  She knows these things will help to fill the empty space in her granddaughter's heart.  Lily, looking out the window, is certain there is nothing worth noting.

Suddenly, the sun breaks over the horizon.  This is the first beautiful thing.  Gram offers further encouragement, but the initial warmth of discovering beauty wans.  Then, Gram yells.  The second beautiful thing stretches before them.

Sometimes the loveliness they find is seen, other times it is heard or smelled, and sometimes it extends the meaning of beautiful.  As they travel closer to Gram's house, a wild storm with wind, thunder, and lightning races across a darkened sky.  They count it as number nine.

Gram keeps driving. The words

almost there

seem like almost never.  And then, they arrive.  Lily is dismayed they did not find number ten.  Gram assures her.  They have number ten.  It's the most beautiful thing of all.

In carefully chosen words, author Molly Beth Griffin pens a gentle story of loss and gathering even the smallest thing to help fill the hollow feeling.  Using a blend of narrative and conversation, we connect with the duo as they travel across the vast landscapes found in the American Midwest.  We, along with Lily and Gram, learn to use our senses to find beauty.  Here is a passage.

A wind farm had sprouted
in the field beside the freeway.
Spinning windmill blades
gleamed in the morning sun.

The scene we see on the front, right, of the matching and open dust jacket and book case extends over the spine to the left edge of the back on the left.  This full color image by Maribel Lechuga captures the true spirit of driving through the countryside.  The red-winged blackbird against the rays of the rising sun as Lily and Gram head home depicts several of the beautiful things.  On the left as the sunlight paints pinks and purples on clouds over the farmland, barn, and silos, another of the beautiful things is displayed.  (Truthfully, this image is a beautiful thing, making the number eleven.)  The title text is varnished.

On the opening and closing endpapers, the hue is the same rich teal seen in the title text.  The illustration on the title page shows Gram packing the car, as Lily sits on a box.  The pictures in this title are rendered

in Photoshop and Clip Studio Paint, with added watercolor textures made in traditional mediums.

They are full-page pictures, double-page images, smaller visuals grouped on a single page or single loosely framed images on one page with liberal white space around them.  

There are multiple vistas shown as the granddaughter and her grandmother travel to begin their new life together.  Sometimes, it is a bird's eye view.  This enables us to make the trip with them.  At the right moment to enhance the pacing and text, we move in close to the characters or one of the beautiful things.  We may be inside the car with them or looking at the outside through a car window.  This makes the experience more intimate. 

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  Five high-flying mallard ducks glide among clouds over a meandering stream.  The perspective for readers is as if we are with the birds.  Beginning in the upper, right-hand corner to the left of the gutter, this small, two-lane road cuts across the right side and over the water.  The land on either side of the stream is represented in shades of green, with grasses, shrubs, and willowy trees.  This is a glorious point of view.

Change in our lives is inevitable, but how we work through it can supply us with an accepted new normal.  Ten Beautiful Things written by Molly Beth Griffin with illustrations by Maribel Lechuga is a book to cherish for the simple but profound actions it requires of us.  It is a marvelous guide.  You'll want a copy of this on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Molly Beth Griffin and Maribel Lechuga and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the link attached to their names.  Molly Beth Griffin has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Maribel Lechuga has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  She also has a blog here.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image and download an activity kit.  At Penguin Random House you can view other interior visuals.

One of the most important truths to hold in our hearts is during difficult times we are never completely alone.  It may appear we are alone, but there are others who have been in a similar situation or are in the same situation with us at the same time.  This book, There Is a Rainbow (Chronicle Books, January 26, 2021) written by Theresa Trinder with pictures by Grant Snider empowers readers to see both sides of time.

A story has a beginning and an end.

When we begin at a particular position, there is another place for us to arrive.  The space, the points from the start to the finish, are real.  During the isolation we are feeling during a pandemic, it is good to understand each of these sentences.  

We know from our increased use of computers, there are colleagues, classrooms, and students on their computers with us.  When we look outside our windows, we see other people.  Some of these people are important to keeping the world functioning.  Others are important in keeping us connected to a smaller circle of family and friends.

In the continuing cadence of phrases, we learn how the journey takes us forward.  It moves us to a glimmer of brightness, a direction, and comfort.  Storms don't last; we do by holding to the belief each day is a new beginning.

The first sentence of this narrative is like the first string of notes in a piece of music.  Theresa Trinder uses this as a rhythmic line, an invitation to readers, for all the sentences that follow.  There is a declaration and a response in each thought. These responses sometimes are what readers might expect, but others are refreshingly original.  Each response is marvelously upbeat.  Here is another of her sentences.

On the other side of town 

(page turn)

there is a voice.

All the illustrations in this book

were rendered in colored pencil.

The soothing, uplifting quality of the narrative is heightened by the artwork of Grant Snider.  His medium fashions a soft texture and his color palette reaches out to the intended audience enveloping them in warmth. The neighborhood street shown on the front, right side, of the dust jacket continues on the other side of the spine.  The time of day is slightly different.  Here, on the back, it is still raining.  People are outside going about their business.  These two scenes are our introduction to the intricate details Grant Snider incorporates into his illustrations.

On the book case is a close-up of a sidewalk.  Colorful drawings of a rainbow between two clouds, our planet, a shooting star, the sun peeking from behind a cloud and a red balloon are spread across the two sides.  We read:


The title is written in a rainbow of colors on the right side.  A rainbow pattern of triangles is along the bottom of the right side.  

The opening and closing endpapers are bright purple.  On the verso and title pages we are introduced to the neighborhood boy and girl, each with large pieces of chalk in their hands for making the pictures on the sidewalk.  They wave in greeting while keeping their distance.

Each visual spans two pages.  There is a rainbow in some form in many of the illustrations or the colors in a rainbow are used in each scene.  This supplies readers with a sense of harmony.

One of my many, many favorite pictures brings us close to the street in the neighborhood.  At the top of the page on the left side are portions of two buildings and a city bus on the street.  Across the street running into the crosswalk is the boy, a letter in his outstretched hand.  Three pigeons appear in the foreground.  The crosswalk fills a large section on the right side.  We see the curb and a street signpost in the upper, right-hand corner.  This illustration and the three subsequent visuals are part of another pictorial short story.

This book, There Is a Rainbow written by Theresa Trinder with pictures by Grant Snider, is a superb book for people now.  It speaks to the everyday events we have experienced and are experiencing.  It is an explanation.  It is hope we can hold in our hands.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Theresa Trinder and Grant Snider and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Grant Snider also has a website titled Incidental Comics.  Theresa Trinder has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Grant Snider has accounts on Facebook (Facebook), Instagram, and Twitter.  Theresa Trinder is showcased at KidLit411.  The cover reveal for this book was hosted by Travis Jonker, School Library Journal, 100 Scope Notes.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pictures.  You will enjoy the book trailer.  Grant Snider speaks about his artistic process for this book.

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