Quote of the Month

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




Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Rooted In Strength

Inside every individual runs a current of confidence.   This current can meander slowly with barely a ripple.  It can rage like rapids running through mountains.  Whether it is small and silent or large and loud, it is always there.  

Perhaps, the source of this current is the same for all individuals.  It is feed from multiple sources, some are tiny, others are beyond our senses.  The Tree In Me (Dial Books for Young Readers, March 16, 2021) written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken is a luminescent, melodic observation of that sustaining and binding force inside all of us.

The tree in me

is part apple,

It is not just part apple, but it is parts of other fruits and nuts.  It also tastes delicious.  The tree provides a place of cool and calm.  The tree provides a space of warmth and energy.  

This tree can be many things.  It is beginnings in seeds.  It is endings (and continuations) in stumps.  In between starting and stopping, it is a source of endless explorations and imaginations.  Many call it home.

From the tree comes gifts around it, under it and above it.  Close your eyes and reach out with your mind.  What do you see, feel, hear, taste or smell near the tree?  

This tree is solid, but able to bow when necessary.  It draws its strength from deep roots and a full crown.  It reaches to other trees, to their roots and crowns.  This is true.  You!


Every time the words penned by Corinna Luyken are read, it is as if you are being rocked in the serenity and security of a bed shaped of tree boughs.  The rhythm fashioned by the comparisons is a lasting lullaby.  In these seven beautifully formed sentences, a world within us is revealed. It is a shared world.  Here are some more words in the first sentence.

The tree in me

is part apple,

part orange-pear-almond-plum

(part yummm),  


When you open the dust jacket, the loveliness of the unfolding scene leaves you breathless before you softly gasp in awe and appreciation.  The portion of the crown shown on the right, front, with the child reaching for the fruit, extends over the spine and to the far-left side on the back. From the bottom of the left, slightly off center, is a thick sturdy tree trunk stretching over the spine.  From that trunk, two smaller branches grow, each covered in a gorgeous array of foliage.  The lush color palette of vivid pink, blue hues, golden yellows, and brown here is used throughout the book.  

On the book case the child has moved to nestle within a fork in a tree, other sturdy branches stretching to the top and left.  The crown covers the setting like an umbrella, across the top and down the left side.  In the fork on the right, above the child, a huge sun shines.  It's like a gigantic piece of fruit.  (You could look at this image all day.)

The same shades of color appear on the opening and closing endpapers.  The leaves are much closer to us.  It is like we are looking up at them, watching as light radiates down through the growth.

On the title page, the tree stands tall slightly right of the gutter, branches and crown spreading left and right over two pages.  The child stands in the field of flowers to the left of the tree, looking up at the fruit.

Each breathtaking illustration

was created using gouache, pencil, and ink.

These two-page pictures by Corinna Luyken bring us close to the child, inviting us into each experience.  Sometimes, the focus steps back broadening our vision.  We see more of the tree and its partners.  We see more children.  As their shared joy grows, so does our joy.  The blend of tiny details and larger brush strokes builds each enchanting moment, moments of discovery, growth, understanding, and connection.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations has the crown of the tree across the top.  Along the bottom is a presentation of grasses and flowers.  Both are in the same arresting hues.  The trunk and its roots begin in the lower, left corner moving toward the gutter.  On the right, hanging from staunch ropes is a large tire swing.  It is horizontal providing seating for three children.  They gleefully spin, heads back in happiness and contentment.


Uplifting, thoughtful, and inspiring through words, artwork, and impeccable pacing, The Tree In Me written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken is a book to read repeatedly.  I know it will promote rich musings you will want to share with others.  You need this title in your personal and professional collections.  Share it widely.  Gift it.

To learn more about Corinna Luyken and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Corinna Luyken has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  This book is showcased with an interview by Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.

Monday, March 29, 2021

You Had No Say

Unless you are an only child, you've experienced the roller coaster ride of sharing your world with a younger or older, sister or brother.  If you are the oldest child in the family, it seems as though you are expected to be the example of propriety.  When something goes wrong, you are blamed in part, even if you are totally innocent.  On the other hand, you are given privileges and opportunities your younger siblings are not.  If you are the youngest child, many times you are your parents' little sweetie pie, unable to do anything wrong. Unfortunately, you hear too many times, wait until you are older.

To be the middle child is an entirely separate experience.  It usually does not offer you any privileges or any protections.  The Middle Kid (Chronicle Books, March 23, 2021) written and illustrated by Steven Weinberg presents a day in the life of a middle child.  In between bursts of laughter, you will reach a new appreciation for all middle children or if you, like Steven Weinberg, are a middle child, you'll find validation.

6:59 AM
CHAPTER 1
GOOD MORNING!

Sniffle.
SNORE.
Sniffle, sniffle-waaaaaaa . . .

So begins a decidedly noisy day.  The quietest one in the group, and still oblivious to the surrounding sounds, is the family dog.  Not wanting to stay silent any longer, the middle kid yells out a greeting.

The breakfast table is a hullabaloo centered in demands.  The results are not good for the artwork of the middle kid.  By chapter three of nine, he is told by his older brother to be tough.  What the older brother fails to tell him is how dark and confining this lesson is.

The next scenario demonstrates how a teacher's adventures on a trip to New Zealand can find their way into a creative escapade with stuffed toy animals, yarn, and a bannister.  Needless to say, what is initially a joint project between the middle kid and his younger sister, ends poorly.  Shortly after midday and chapter four and one half, life improves.

A compassionate mom has a plan.  It is a breather trip to the middle kid's favorite place.  And then, off he and his siblings go to do one of his favorite things.  He is perfect to explore their recent discovery.  Now, he has a secret that is all his.  A popsicle incident does not add up, but this does not deter our intrepid artist and architect.  His finest hour is designed to draw attention, the right kind of attention.  And it does.  Good night.  Sleep tight.


With affectionate truth, author Steven Weinberg, spins a sixty-two-page tale of navigating sibling dynamics.  To create and maintain pacing and gentle tension, each chapter heading includes a specific time of day.  These short chapters are full of blended realistic dialogue and casual narrative. Here is a passage.

9:01 AM CHAPTER 3---> YOU GOTTA BE TOUGH

This morning, my big brother tells me, "You gotta
be tough."

 "I AM!" I yell.

"No," he says.  "You are loud.  Loud is not tough."
I turn around.  I have things to draw.

He grabs my shoulder and says, "I will teach you
how to be tough.  Because I am tough.  And I have
your back."

That might be the nicest thing he has ever told me.

Then he stops looking so nice.


The front of the dust jacket speaks volumes about the fate of being a middle kid in this happy-go-lucky family.  You can't help but laugh at the fact even the dog gets a slice of pizza!  The clever design of using the pizza box as a placeholder for the text adds to the fun.  Numerous elements are varnished.

To the left, on the back, is a portion of a double-page interior picture.  The middle kid is enjoying some alone time in the basement, papers, books, crayons, scissors, and shoes spread across the floor.  He has drawn a masterpiece mix of reality and imagination.  It is the ultimate sanctuary.

Beneath the dust jacket, the book case is a recreation of a traditional black-and-white-speckled composition notebook.  In the larger framed square is the book's title.  For name it reads Steven Weinberg.  For school, it is Lafayette Elementary, and the grade is First.  Each is written in different colored crayon.

On the matching opening and closing endpapers are two original pages from the composition notebook.  In pencil are words of warning, scribbles and a large x.  With a page turn at the front the middle kid is carrying an armload of supplies with the faithful dog trailing behind and looking hopeful at a discarded shoe.  The dedication:

To My Big Brother and little Sister 

is written in crayon.  On the title page there is a lot happening as the three siblings and the pooch pal gather around a rug on the floor, paper written in crayon spelling out the text. The table of contents and introduction are written on composition pages.

The illustrations

were rendered in watercolor, pencil, art from a few centuries ago, digital media, and a whole lot more.

They are bold, highly animated, emotionally expressive and displayed in a variety of perspectives.  The facial features, especially the eyes, allow us to gage every moment.  Steven has placed his signature watercolor backgrounds in many of the images along with his fish and fishing artwork.  Bengal, the tiger, looks a bit different because he is.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture.  The middle kid, his little sister, and the dog are on the floor behind the upstairs bannister.  The little sister is crying in dismay.  The dog has its paws over its eyes.  The middle kid in the center is gleefully throwing Bubba, Bo, and Fred over the railing.  Bengal is about to join them.  Bubba, Bo, and Fred are large at the bottom of the page.  They are so close; portions of their bodies are off the page.  One of Steven's beautiful fish paintings is hanging on the wall on the main floor.


You will be grinning from ear to ear the entire time you are reading The Middle Kid written and illustrated by Steven Weinberg.  It's a warm and funny family portrait, with a heartfelt nod to all those middle children.  I highly recommend it for your collections, personal and professional.

To learn more about Steven Weinberg and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Steven Weinberg has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Steven Weinberg penned a guest post about this book at the Nerdy Book Club.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Feeding Our Bodies, Our Minds And Our Hearts

Individuals plant it, nurture it, harvest it, sell it, and consume it.  They can do one of these things, a few or all of them.  Food is life.  Entire lifetimes are spent gardening, farming, producing, marketing, preserving, cooking, and presenting food.  It is the center of daily dining, celebrations, and moments we hold in our hearts forever. 

In the produce market field, one woman took the proverbial words, variety's the very spice of life, to a whole, original level.  Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat (Beach Lane Books, January 12, 2021) written by Mara Rockliff with illustrations by Giselle Potter is an exciting portrait of an innovative woman who chose to do the unexpected.  Her decisions affected too many to count, in a classic ripple effect for good.

When Frieda Caplan went to work at the Seventh Street
produce market, she saw boxes of bananas.
Piles of potatoes.
Truckloads of tomatoes.
Apples as far as the eye could see.

These fruits and vegetables were popular fare, but Frieda Caplan wondered using those two magical words, what if.  She brought mushrooms.  People started to buy her mushrooms for a very simple reason.  They were there.  From there they went to markets, restaurants, and roadside stands.

Frieda did not stop at mushrooms.  She developed a reputation for trying anything.  She enjoyed displaying items with distinctive textures and unforgettable flavors.  She would show a new kind of produce with descriptions about it as well as recipes.  

Sometimes it took people a bit of time to respond to her unique introductions, but Frieda was persistent.  She had a knack for knowing what special fruit or vegetable would become favored.  Not only did Frieda bring her ideas to the produce market, but to others who asked questions.  

Reporters were eager to know what new fruit or vegetable would make an appearance.  Frieda was not shy in telling them.  Soon her two daughters were working with her.  They practiced using the words, what if, too.  They were a team, a force for change.  People will be thanking them for generations.


Author Mara Rockliff starts with what was, showing readers step by step, how a single person can contribute to what many take for granted today.  A recurring detail in the narrative adds to the authenticity of the narrative.  Mara Rockliff includes fruits and vegetables Frieda Caplan introduced to the produce market with respective dates and appetizing information about some of them.  Here is a passage.

Farmers dug for tips on what to grow.

How about purple potatoes?

Cooks peppered her with questions.


On the front, right, portion of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, we see Frieda's hand holding a mushroom with other hands extending to her.  In those hands are a few of the fruits we now see in our markets with gratitude to her courageous and inventive spirit.  The hands representative of many ethnic groups, the fruit, and title text are varnished on the jacket.  

To the left, on the back, is a portion of a double-page interior picture, somewhat smaller to include more area.  Within shades of the background color used on the front, stands Frieda sampling baby corn offered by a farmer.  Around her are other bins of fruits and vegetables.  To the left and top, a marketeer moves their goods.  Another grower stands in the back of a truck waiting to unload their colorful vegetables, yellow, red, and purple.

Purple covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page, wearing purple with a string of pearls, Frieda stands behind a display of fruits she brought to the market.  The image sizes throughout the book vary from double-page pictures, to full-page pictures, and smaller visuals grouped together on a single page.

Rendered in watercolor by Giselle Potter, the images depict Frieda as rare as the fruits she presented at the market.  You can tell, as the first female to own and manage a produce company, she shone among a mostly male-dominated industry.  By the facial expressions on the people and their body postures, we understand Frieda commanded a certain growing respect.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  Frieda, on the right, stands among eight male marketeers.  We can see two of them only by the hands holding boxes of produce.  One of the men is holding a box of blood oranges.  Frieda is tasting a slice.  Their commentary adds to the sincerity of the scene.

Go see Frieda.

Take it 
to Frieda.

Frieda
will try
anything! 


The next time you go to the market for or eat your favorite fruit or vegetable, think of this remarkable woman.  Try It!: How Frieda Caplan Changed the Way We Eat written by Mara Rockliff with illustrations by Giselle Potter chronicles the accomplishments of a woman who paved the way for food diversity.  At the close of the book is an author's note titled Fabulous, Fearless . . . Frieda!, and a note on sources.  This is an excellent picture biography to have in your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Mara Rockliff and Giselle Potter and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  At Mara's website are four activity sheets you can download.  Giselle Potter has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  Elizabeth Bird, author, reviewer, blogger, and current Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system interviews Mara Rockliff about this title at School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production.  At author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Giselle Potter and this book are featured.  At the publisher's website you can view the entire dust jacket and book case, and multiple interior illustrations.  Here is the link to Frieda Caplan's company, Frieda's Specialty Produce.

 



It was a single kind of fruit.  It was one pre-dawn walk in the woods.  It was the wisdom of a beloved elder.  Combined they fashioned a force which kept a fierce fire alive in an iconic civil rights leader.  We Wait for the Sun (The Story of Young Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Her Grandmother's Enduring Love) (Roaring Brook Press, February 9, 2021) written by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe with illustrations by Raissa Figueroa is a loving story of a morning memory. 

The girl in this story, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, was born more than one hundred years ago in Charlotte, North Carolina.  During a time of racial inequity in America, she grew up to become a legendary civil rights lawyer, fighting for justice. 

It is an hour before the sun's rising.  A little girl follows her grandmother out of their house and down a path toward the darker woods. She believes she and her Grandma Rachel are the only two people outside at this time of day.  Soon, they are joined by other women who move silently through moist warm southern air.

Grandma Rachel calls out to Dovey, assuring her there is nothing to fear.  Dovey stays close to her grandmother, mirroring her every move.  Bird song starts, leading the ladies of all ages toward the best berries, ripe for picking.

Dovey opens her mouth to receive and savor the first-picked blackberry from Grandma Rachel.  The sound, the gentle plop, of berries dropping into pails surrounds the pickers.  As pails fill to the top, the sky fills with the first blush of dawn.

Kneeling, Grandma Rachel hugs Dovey close to her as they watch the horizon.  Suddenly, the sun is there, and Grandma Rachel stands, her face toward the new light.  Dovey watches her.  Time stands still until Grandma Rachel leads Dovey back home.


When you read the words written by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe, you are with the child and her grandmother in the early hours of a North Carolina morning.  Each sensory step envelops you.  There is a bit of mystery.  There is a bit of magic.  There is a whole lot of love and strength being passed from a grandmother to her granddaughter.  Here is a passage.

The darkness holds a thousand sounds.  As we push deeper 
and deeper into the woods, the blackness turns to gray,
and sleepy birds begin calling to each other, sending
     echoes
        through
           the treetops.


The images on the front and back of the open and matching dust jacket and book case wash over you like the colors they showcase.  The picture on the right of Grandma Rachel and Dovey embracing each other and waiting for the sun to rise asks us to embrace this story.  And we do.  The five-word title text is in gold foil.  The text along the bottom is varnished.

The image on the back is deep in the forest where the light of day has not reached yet.  It is a continuation of what we see on the right.  Women work in silence and sometimes whisper local gossip.  They nearly blend in with the trees.  Text here, from the narrative, reassures Dovey.  It reassures readers, too.

On the opening and closing endpapers, artist Raissa Figueroa has placed a closeup of blackberries amid leaves.  Moving from left to right on both sets, the lighting changes from darkness to a faint bit of light, then to before sunrise light, and finally, on the fourth, to the light of a rising sun.  It's a snapshot in fours of Dovey and Grandma Rachel's experience.

These digital illustrations are breathtaking and atmospheric with a superb use of light and shadow.  There are many moments that glow.  Elements in each of the double-page pictures frame the central focus of each one.  Sometimes there appear to be two separate illustrations in one image.

Perspectives shift.  We might be looking at Dovey and her grandmother walking.  We might be a bird flying over them.  We might be standing directly behind them, the backs of their heads next to us, as the sun rises.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the first sentence of the story after the introduction.

In the hour before dawn, we slip out of the house,
and the midsummer night is dark and cool.

Dovey and Grandma Rachel have stepped out the door and off the porch of their home.  They are walking in the light shining from windows on the right side of the visual.  We see the outline of the house and surrounding forest etched and filled with darker colors, hues of black, purple and blue.  This illustration is luminescent and enchanting.


Beside bringing us into the larger story of Dovey Johnson Roundtree, this book, We Wait for the Sun (The Story of Young Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Her Grandmother's Enduring Love written by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe with illustrations by Raissa Figueroa, reinforces the power of a single day to create great and lasting change in our lives.  It is an intimate, heartwarming recollection.  It is something to be treasured.  At the close of the book is lengthy backmatter.  There are four pages dedicated to an author's note, Rachel Millis Bryant Graham and Dovey Mae Johnson Roundtree.  Following this is a timeline page and a bibliography page.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Katie McCabe and Raissa Figueroa and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Raissa Figueroa has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  This book is highlighted at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Author Katie McCabe and illustrator Raissa Figueroa are interviewed by author, blogger, and current Collections Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system Elizabeth Bird at School Library Journal A Fuse #8 Production.  Raissa Figueroa is showcased with an interview about this book at Let's Talk Picture Books.



Deciding to plant a garden for producing food is no easy commitment.  Digging and preparing the ground for planting is hard work, harder still if you are doing it alone with only a shovel.  Depending on the soil, you might spend days and weeks getting it ready for planting.  Michelle's Garden: How the First Lady Planted Seeds of Change (Little, Brown and Company, March 2, 2021) written and illustrated by Sharee Miller is a joyful exploration of the development of the largest kitchen garden at the White House.

Before Michelle Obama was the First Lady,
she was a kid just like you.
She walked to school with her brother, rode
her bike, and played outside every day.

As a child she loved to eat vegetables, and as a parent and wife she wanted to encourage the same love in her daughters and husband.  They loved trying new recipes.  As the First Lady, she wanted to spread the love of eating more vegetables and fruits to a greater group.

She was going to design, prepare, and plant a garden big enough to feed everyone at the White House, everyone who visited, and still have food leftover to feed others.  Michelle had a huge problem, though.  She had never gardened.  With the help of White House staff for advice and local children, her plan started to take shape.

They collected the proper tools, the proper soil, and lots and lots of seeds.  All the helpers and Michelle picked a sunny spot on the White House lawn.  They dug, raked, and hauled rocks.  They made special holes for each seed.  They watered and watched, watered and watched.  They removed harmful pests.  President Obama helped, too!

It was hard to wait for tiny sprouts to grow.  The day for harvesting did arrive.  All the workers gathered and picked the produce.  Gardeners became chefs.  There was enough to give to those without food.  The best part of this biggest kitchen garden ever at the White House is the idea for gardening grew just like those first seeds planted by Michelle and her helpers.


Readers will appreciate and be inspired with author Sharee Miller's approach to this narrative.  She builds on Michelle Obama's youth and years as a parent and wife prior to becoming the First Lady.  She uses the repetition of the words More, please to great effect along with a spare but appropriate amount of dialogue.  The other helpful ingredient in this nonfiction tale is Sharee Miller includes how Michelle Obama worked through her initial problem and the steps followed toward a fruitful harvest.  Here is a passage.

There was no rushing nature, but there were things they could do
to help the garden grow big and strong.  They watered the plants
every day, especially when it was hot outside.


(Note: I am working on this post with an F & G.)

One of the first things you notice when looking at the open dust jacket is the vibrant colors and vibrant personalities on all the people.  First Lady Michelle Obama with her gardening helpers kneeling and ready to work asks readers to join them.  With the White House in the background, it places importance on Michelle Obama's achievements in this project.  Framing it with individual fruits and vegetables adds a playfulness to the image and its design.

To the left, on the back, is an interior illustration.  It shows the helpers wearing chef hats and preparing their fruits and vegetables for cooking.  They are to the left and right of Michelle Obama in the front and back of her.  This is a setting filled with happiness and a sense of success.

The opening endpapers are a vivid display of fruits and vegetables around small images of the White House.  On the closing endpapers (or last two pages of the book) is a top of a wooden table.  There is an eraser, several paperclips, and a writing pencil visible.  On the left side is an author's note.  On the right side is a photograph of Michelle Obama working with her helpers.  Many of the children here, as in the book, are wearing yellow t-shirts.  There is a seed packet partially shown.  There are also instructions for making a paper cup garden.

On the dedication and publication page, six meals on colorful plates frame the top and the bottom.  To the right, on the title page, fruits and vegetables circle the text with the White House on the bottom.  These illustrations rendered with

watercolor, ink and colored pencil on 140lb cold-press paper

by Sharee Miller are highly animated, and cheerful.  Points of view are altered to enhance the pacing of the narrative.  We might be joining Michelle, her brother, and parents for dinner.  We feel as though we are walking with President Obama and First Lady Obama as they walk on the White House lawn.  Or we might be looking over the gathered tools, soil, fertilizer and seed packets spread on two pages.  Most children will see themselves in these illustrations.

One of my many favorite pictures is a single page picture.  It is a closeup of one of the girl gardeners.  Behind her we see a row of carrot tops neatly labeled.  She is on the ground with a glass jar luring a beetle inside with the promise of a favorite leaf.  All we see of the child is her face two hands and a portion of her arm and shoulder.  I love that she has one eye open and the other closed.  I love that she is smiling.


Readers will realize the value of growing their own fruits and vegetables when and after reading Michelle's Garden: How the First Lady Planted Seeds of Change written and illustrated by Sharee Miller.  First Lady Michelle Obama used her position to teach others to feed themselves.  It was a powerful thing she did with this garden.  In the author's note we are told the fate of the garden, another brilliant idea by our former First Lady.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional bookshelves.  Let's get gardening!

To learn more about Sharee Miller and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Sharee Miller has accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website is a printable activity sheet.

Sharee Miller Presents MICHELLE'S GARDEN from LB School on Vimeo.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Go With The Flow

One of the many things you learn from being near or on water for most of your life is, it never stays the same.  Every minute, hour, or day, whether it is a stream, river, inland lake or one of the Great Lakes, it changes.  A difference in temperature, humidity, or wind determines if it is as smooth as glass, rippled, or rocky with waves.  Its fluid moods beckon to a host of flora, fauna, and humans.  A student of watery realms gains essential life insights.

Paddling down creeks or rivers rafting or canoeing, it is easy to observe our feathered friends, either as frequent visitors or residents.  Mel Fell (Balzar + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, February 2, 2021) written and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor captures the can-do spirit of young kingfisher.  Determined thinking bolsters bravery.

One day, when Mama was away,
Mel decided it was time to learn to fly. 

Her sister, Pim, and her brother, Pip, were certain this was not the best idea.  Mel, having the good sense to be scared, was nevertheless going to fly.  Today was the day.  Springing up from the branch, she dove.

It was a long way down.  The affectionate squirrels tried to catch her.  Their attempts were not fruitful.  Buzzing bees simply could not stop her.  Down she went.  As you might assume, the efforts of a neighborly spider were unsuccessful.  

Mel fell straight down, plunging into the water.  She caught the right-sized fish in her sharp beak.  Using her wings, she surged from the water.  She was flying!  Up and up and up she went.

As she passed each of the resident tree members, they cheered for the courageous Mel.  When Mel reached the family branch, Mama was home.  Looking at each other, they spoke identical thoughts.  Attitude.


Using dialogue with narrative, author Corey R. Tabor fashions a tale guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat as you applaud the efforts of this young bird.  The tension builds as each of the friends try to prevent what they assume is a disaster.  Yet, Corey R. Tabor builds humor into the story with his word choices and descriptions as Mel whizzes past the tree trunk, on the way down and on the way up.  Here is a passage.

The squirrels tried to catch her.  They
really did.  They'd grown quite fond of
those squeaky little chirpers upstairs.

Blast!
Nuts!
Oof!
Aieeeeeee!

But it was no use.  They
missed her by a whisker.


The position of the text in relation to the spine on the matching dust jacket and book case is your first hint the reading of this book is going to be turned a bit.  To read the title horizontally, left to right, as it appears above, you need to put the spine on top.  The cheerful, full color palette with animated characters on the front, right, is another clue as to the enchanting events unfolding inside the covers.  The title text is raised to the touch.

To the left, on the back, with the spine on top, the textured white canvas continues.  On the left side is Mel's tree.  It stretches from top to bottom.  We can see the three bird siblings and Mama, the owl family, the beehive, the spider's web, and three squirrel tails sticking out from hollows in the trunk.

On the opening and closing endpapers and the first inside page is a vibrant pattern in two hues of spring green.  It features leaf prints like those on Mel's tree.  At the front, the next page is a close-up of the tree with the trunk on the right, branches extending off the top and left side.  At the back, the trunk is still on the right.  A single branch sticks out from the kingfisher home.  Mel is pushing one of her siblings to the edge of that branch.  The other one is holding to the branch with most of their body still in the hole.  This page also contains an author's note, the dedication and publication information.

On the title page (You are still reading this book turned.), the trunk of the tree on the right is shown from the top to the bottom of two pages.  Mama is on a branch above the nest hole in the trunk.  Mel is peering outside.

These illustrations rendered with

pencil, colored pencil, and acrylic paint, and assembled digitally

are vertical two-page pictures on the textured, white canvas on a matte-finished, heavier paper.  The one exception for the background is when we see Mel moving in the water.  At this point we turn the book again, so Mel is flying up.  The tree trunk is always on the right side.  

It's the facial expressions on the animals which elevate the humor as do their physical attempts to stop Mel on her way down.  Mel's eyes are closed all the way down until just before she hits the water.  Her eyes are closed on her way home but this time she spins her body around.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when Mel is flying up to her home.  Toward the bottom of the page two branches bleeding off the left side form a large "v".  Inside the "v" the spider has spun a web.  Mel shoots through the web, threads showing her speed upward.  Off to the right the spider spells "yay" and claps with all eight of her hands.  Mel has spun showing us her breast.  The fish in her beak is looking worried.  (There is more humor involving the fish at the end.)


Original in words, design and artwork, this book, Mel Fell written and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor, shows the results of adding a dive of faith plus resolve to equal success.  Whether you read this one on one or to a larger group, this is a story time treasure.  I highly recommend you add this title to your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Corey R. Tabor and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  At the publisher's website you can read a sample.  They also have a book trailer there which supplies an example of how to read this title.



By canoe, by raft, by fishing boat, by speed boat, by pontoon, by yacht, by houseboat or by sailboat, with every trip this passenger has stories to tell.  It can be a simple sunny day cruise.  It can be the most amazing fish tale every told.  It can be a my-dad-will-never-let-me-drive-the-boat-again-after-I ran-it-up-on-the-dock escapade.  It can be an I-can't-believe-I-survived ocean exploit.  These narratives, when combined with other multiple water travels, are an individual's existence from first to last breath.  In Sail (Little, Brown and Company, March 9, 2021) written and illustrated by Dorien Brouwers, readers explore the wild, wonderful, unpredictable, and sometimes frightening ride called life. 

We all have ships to sail
in life's adventurous tale. 

It does not matter the size or type of vessel.  There is one for each of us.  We release a ship from its moorings and with openness seek that which awaits us.

Regardless of the shape and height of the waves, we bravely welcome them.  If we feel as though we are off course, look to the sails and change direction. Stay sharp as the wind tosses the boat. 

If we tumble into the water, swim.  There are secrets beneath the waves, waiting to be found.  Go down.  Go deep.  Hold those secrets close.

When it is time, we rise to the surface. We do so with more knowledge and understanding.  From there, back in our boat, we go forward knowing there is much more to explore and achieve.  


Reading like a poem, a lullaby, and a loving letter offering encouragement, this book written by Dorien Brouwers asks us to be our best selves regardless of where we go and what we encounter.  Using watery realms analogous to life with us as sailors in a boat of our choosing, rhyming couplets create a comforting narrative.  In each of the couplets, emphasis is placed on a single word.  When those single words are strung together, they make a buoyant ring around the reader.  Here is a passage.

Search the ocean for the light.
Breathe in deep and don't lose sight.


The swirl of blue and white hues seen on the front of the dust jacket moves over the spine to the left, fashioning a vast expanse of water and opportunities.  The school of tiny fish racing in an arc on the front indicate a fast-moving current.  To the left, on the back, a smaller group of fish meander through the ocean.  This setting with the sailboat and its single passenger with a seabird flying nearby is the essence of anticipation.  

A whirlpool spins across the opening and closing endpapers.  It's a wild blend of blues and white.  Fish in both colors swim with the circular currents in constant motion.  On the verso and title pages, a double-page picture of a seascape presents several different kinds of sailboats in a sheltered space, a calm sea, with a red and white lighthouse on a nearby point of land.

Each two-page picture in this book was rendered

with watercolor on 220gsm Daler Rowney paper with monoprinted details added to it.

Their eloquent, textured depictions display sensory scenes.  In a superb mix of light and shadow, a variety of perspectives draws us into each image.

We are standing on a dock next to a row of boats, some large enough to dwarf us.  As our boat moves off the right side of the visual, we reach down to pull a large anchor loose from the bottom.  When a stormy sea surrounds us, we hold tight to the sail lines, trying to follow the right path.  Now in the ocean, we silently swim down and among the colorful creatures and plants.  Each perspective offers an original possibility.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is in the murky depths.  Starfish, jellyfish, rays, scallops, and fish glide and rest.  Swimming with a school of fish is the child.  They are moving toward a giant vibrant octopus who occupies most of the left side.  In three of its arms, it holds keys.  What do these keys unlock?  I imagine each reader will have an answer, some the same and others strikingly divergent.


This book, Sail written and illustrated by Dorien Brouwers, like the water on which we traverse, will take on fresh meanings each time it is read with readers of all ages.  At the close of the title is a page of six questions with the heading,

Some Things to Think About.

This is a book which needs to be on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Dorien Brouwers and her other work, please access her website by following the link attached to her name.  You can see interior illustrations at her website.  Dorien Brouwers has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website is a marvelous, illustrated chat with the author about the book and her images.

(Note:  I was working with an F & G when writing this post.)

Friday, March 19, 2021

The More The Merrier

If you ask a child if they've ever dreamed of having their own home without adults, most will reply with an enthusiastic yes.  Some want siblings to share in the adventure.  Others wish to have close friends join in this exciting endeavor.  For many this vision is one held in their hearts and minds for years.  It is a home they carry with them.

For all those children who hold this dream close, a new collaboration by award-winning creators breathe life into that dream.  The Ramble Shamble Children (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, March 9, 2021) written by Christina Soontornvat with illustrations by Lauren Castillo follows a family of five who happily live without adults.  The siblings work together in all things, even when a shared idea reveals an essential wisdom.

Down the mountain, across the creek,
past the last curve in the road,
five children lived together
in a ramble shamble house.

Each day the children were busy with their designated tasks.  There was a garden to tend.  There were crows to chase away.  There were chickens to feed.  There was mud to savor.

When it was time to eat, each child helped prepare the meal.  There was one exception.  There was still mud to savor. 

These children were always working but working together lightened the load.  At day's end, they snuggled together in the oldest girl's bed to listen to her fantastic tales.  One day, their idyllic lives shifted when they read a book.

Their ramble shamble house needed to change to be a proper house.  The four older children worked all the next day to make their house and yard proper.  When they were done, it did look different, but no one was adjusting to the changes.  And where was mud-loving Jory?!  The children living in the ramble shamble house discovered one of the most valuable secrets of a proper life.  


With each reading, the words in this story penned by Christina Soontornvat cuddle deeper into your reader's heart.  She describes an inviting setting with each individual having a purpose.  She uses the words always and proper to great effect, as familiar and comforting storytelling beats.  In a magical manner, layer by layer with a pleasing blend of dialogue and narrative, Christina Soontornvat casts a spell and teaches readers one of the oldest truths.  Here is a passage.

"Hold on," said Finn.  "Has anyone see Jory?"
"Isn't he in the mud puddle?" said Locky.
"Oh no!  We propered it up!"

Jory?
Jory?
Jory!


Look at the children on the front, right, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  Each one of them are merrily engaged in exactly what they enjoy, hiking, juggling, reading or playing in the mud.  The pastoral, sunny setting amid mountains and surrounded by a forest provides warmth and security.  The title text, varnished on the jacket, fits in the scene perfectly as crows fly from the letters.  

To the left, on the back, a dark teal supplies a canvas.  There we see the twins holding gathered carrots and running.  Near them, a hen perches in a basket with three eggs on the ground.

A soft midnight blue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  There, a flock of crows dips and flies in a line.  They are the same hue as that of the title text.  On the title page our focus is on the house, nestled among evergreens in a clearing.

These images by Lauren Castillo rendered

by combining ink drawings and Gelli monoprints in Adobe Photoshop

span two pages, edge to edge, single pages, edge to edge, lovely illustrations set and loosely framed on a single page and two smaller pictures on one page.  These pictures show the five children moving and working in unity.  They hike across the verso and dedication pages.  They garden, chase, feed, and play in the same area.  We view these visuals as more panoramic or close to the children, depending on a desired effect to enhance the story.  We are drawn into each moment by the facial expressions on the children's faces.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations brings us closer to the five siblings.  It spans two pages.  We are close to the front porch of the ramble shamble house.  Finn stands on the second step up on the porch.  He is juggling three eggs as the hen in the basket watches.  On the sidewalk leading to the porch steps, Merra works on the salad with lettuce and tomatoes next to her, on paper and in a bowl.  The twins, Locky and Roozle, run, on the right side, carrying carrots freshly picked from the garden.  Jory, behind them, sits in the mud, totally content.


You will get requests to read this book, The Ramble Shamble Children written by Christina Soontornvat with artwork by Lauren Castillo, over and over again.  It makes a dream seem possible.  It exudes warmth like a beloved blanket.  You'll want to have a copy on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Christina Soontornvat and Lauren Castillo and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  At Lauren's site she has additional fun resources and images for this title.  Christina Soontornvat has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.  Lauren Castillo has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the title page.  There is a cover reveal and interview with both Christina and Lauren at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Equal Under The Law

There was a time in schools and colleges when girls and young women did not participate in varsity or intercollegiate sports.  For most of us there was only the Girls Athletic Association and intermural athletics.  In educational institutions, girls and young women were blatantly denied equality.  In fact, there was a rise in feminism in the 1960s and 1970s as women on a larger scale sought equality in all aspects of their lives. 

Fortunately, opportunities for women have improved in the United States of America.  This is due to a law signed on June 23, 1972.  An Equal Shot: How the Law Title IX Changed America (Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, February 23, 2021) written by Helaine Becker with illustrations by Dow Phumiruk chronicles the obstacles faced by girls and women and how this congressional legislation removed roadblocks based on gender.

It takes just three words to say, "It isn't fair."

If you count four words, they will form a willingness to champion equality for women of all ages.  When you count thirty-seven words, you have words which alter women's rights for generations.  These thirty-seven words are a part of American history for the past forty-nine years. Only 49 years.

They are not a part of any of the documents written by the first leaders of this country.  They are not a part of any political speeches during the Civil War.  They are a federal law called Title IX.

Before Title IX is gender discrimination.  You were fired if found to be pregnant or married.  Sometimes, you were denied admittance in studies for certain professional occupations.  With Title IX, there is a sizeable shift in balance.

Title IX did open new doors for women, but it did so for men as well.  Men were able to pursue careers normally considered for women alone.  In the final sentences of this book, we are reminded of the power of words to promote change for the benefit of everyone.  We are asked a single, thought-provoking question.


The presentation of this momentous law is unique by author Helaine Becker.  She focuses on the potential built on words, written or spoken, beginning and ending this narrative with their triumphs.  Through declarative, descriptive sentences, she draws our attention to the lack of equality in our defining democratic documents and contrasts them with the accomplishments afforded everyone in the Title IX law. Here is a passage.

Girls could even be prevented from becoming
doctors, professors, or scientists.

Simply for being girls.


A vibrant, sky blue, textured with speckles, supplies the canvas for a double-page image on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  Title IX refers specifically to educational institutions receiving federal funding.  For this reason, artist Dow Phumiruk places large books stacked vertically and horizontally left to right across this image.  The spine is designed to be the open edge of a book.  On and among these books are girls and young women participating in different sports and attending classes.  On the right you can see the scales of justice level.  The girls and young women on the dust jacket as well as the title text are varnished.

On a background of muted grass green is a pattern of girls and women participating in sports on the opening endpapers.  These same girls and women appear on the closing endpapers on a background of pale blue. There are thirty-two different active images.

These illustrations rendered

in Adobe Photoshop with scans of watercolors and textures 

span two pages.  Within those two pages are differing perspectives, smaller vignettes, layered items and symbolic backgrounds.  Three girls, young women, we see on the first picture, travel through most of the following pages.  This invites us to join them.

Most readers will see themselves reflected in the characters Dow Phumiruk portrays.  She carefully showcases a diverse collection of girls and women. They are animated in her signature style.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations brings us into a pastoral scene.  It is filled with a grassy meadow and full, green-leaved trees on the left and right sides.  On the left portion is a large stone monument for IX with a roof and a base.  In the peak of the roof is the word Title.  The shape of this mirrors that of the United States Supreme Court building.  In the upper "v" of the "x" is a nest with two white doves in it.  Vines are stretching up from the base.  On the left side, girls and young women are making their way to the scale hanging from the beam balanced on either side of the center of the roof peak.  One is climbing a ladder.  Another two are using a rope.  On the right side five boys are standing in that scale.  Girl by girl the scales are becoming balanced.


This book, An Equal Shot: How the Law Title IX Changed America written by Helaine Becker with artwork by Dow Phumiruk, is one you will want to have in your personal and professional collections.  There is extensive backmatter with illustrations.  Two pages are dedicated to Title IX and You supplying formation about Patsy Mink, Bernice Sandler, Edith Green, and Shirley Chisholm.  The next two pages have extended facts about What the Law Did, Title IX Today, Progress, More Work to Do, and Further Exploration. 

To learn more about Helaine Becker and Dow Phumiruk and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Helaine Becker has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Dow Phumiruk has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the Macmillan website, you can view interior illustrations.  

UPDATE:  Please take a few moments to read the interview with Helaine Becker and Dow Phumiruk hosted by Elizabeth Bird, Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system, at School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 ProductionIt is fabulous!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Better Together #3

There comes a time when a single dramatic event causes us to assess how we will respond in certain situations.  There is usually an initial reaction.  It happens almost instinctively, but it is not always the right one.  Upon reflection, we realize we must improve how we think and act.  This makes the connections between family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers stronger.

Less than one year ago, we met an abundantly positive petite personality in an uplifting take on a classic tale.  Chicken Little The Real And Totally True Tale (Scholastic Press, May 5, 2020) written and illustrated by Sam Wedelich through wit allowed us to see the wisdom in collecting information before making a decision.  This fact-loving fowl is back in Chicken Little and The Big Bad Wolf (Scholastic Press, March 2, 2021) written and illustrated by Sam Wedelich. How big and how bad is this legendary wolf?

I am so
NOT
scared
of any
wolf! 

As Chicken Little boldly proclaims her lack of fear repeatedly, she is oblivious to the approaching figure.  There is a colossal collision.  When a dismayed voice asks if Chicken Little is alright, she looks up, screams, and skedaddles without hesitation.

As she tries to process what she has seen, there is only one logical choice.  It is the Big Bad Wolf!  An older chicken raises the alarm.  Chicken Little tries to run after her, but she is, after all, little.

Back in the barnyard, the chickens can't agree on a plan, but ultimately select an unwise alternative.  Fortunately for the flock, Chicken Little arrives with her voice of reason.  She gathers clues.  These don't satisfy her.

Hesitantly, she approaches the BBW.  The ensuing conversation has the residents of the coop rolling their respective eyes in disbelief.  And yet . . . Chicken Little speaks truths one cannot ignore.  Let's eat!


Each sentence Chicken Little utters in the beginning sets readers up for the BIG crashing comedic reveal.  This is a gift author Sam Wedelich gives to us.  The humor continues as Chicken Little ponders this unexpected situation.  Readers will delight in the word play, the use of re-worded iconic phrases, the fear factor trigger, and phrases with double meanings.  Told in dialogue, first person and other characters, and a bit of narrative, Chicken Little at the end brings us back to her first words.  Here is a passage.

WOLF?! YOU
CAN'T TRUST A WOLF!
HE'S PULLING THE FEATHERS
OVER YOUR EYES!

YEAH!
HE'S THE
BIG 
BAD
WOLF!

Hmm . . .
I see what
you mean.


In looking at the front and back of the book case, we immediately notice hilarity is a huge part of this story.  Look at the shadow of the wolf on the front.  It is a clear contrast to the words Chicken Little is saying.  On the back are four questions begging to be answered.  The first one has multiple-choice replies.  Chicken Little, wing on her hip, warns readers to not check the third box.  This is an irresistible invitation to start reading the story.  There is a little bit of text about Sam Wedelich, similar to what you might read on the back flap of a dust jacket.  Chicken Little on the front and back and the title text are varnished.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a pattern in two shades of red, pale and bright.  These are the identical hues shown on the book case.  Here Chicken Little is engaged in a variety of activities.  Cameras and photographs of The Big Bad Wolf are a part of the design.

On the title page, wings spread open to her sides, Chicken Little wearing her signature tiny red boots and large circular red glasses starts the story.  These illustrations on cream, matte-finished paper are rendered digitally with the type hand lettered by Sam Wedelich.  Dialogue appears in speech balloons, differently colored depending on the speaker.

Each portion of these images is defined by the heavy black lines around them.  Chicken Little is portrayed in a variety of sizes in partial-page pictures, full-page pictures or double-page pictures. Motion and emotion are conveyed with excellence, each assisted by perspective.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a single-page visual.  It features four of the coop chickens.  They are all wearing old-style flying helmets.  Three have on goggles.  These three are carrying suitcases. They are looking straight at readers.  This picture is after they have decided 

to fly the coop.


This bird is certainly the word.  Chicken Little and The Big Bad Wolf written and illustrated by Sam Wedelich allows us to examine ourselves in light of the situation in which Chicken Little and the coop characters find themselves.  Everyone wants to belong, accepted as they are and not as they are perceived.  I highly recommend this title for both your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Sam Wedelich and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Sam Wedelich has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  You can see loads of Sam Wedelich's art on her Instagram account.




In her poem, The Summer Day, Mary Oliver closes with a question:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Assuredly the responses to her question will vary with each reader, but it is a hope many will share identical replies.  After reading A New Day (Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, March 2, 2021) written by Brad Meltzer with illustrations by Dan Santat, this is guaranteed.  This story centers on how a grateful heart extended with kindness can be an agent for significant change.

Sunday quit.
Just like that.
She said she was tired of being a day.

Do you know how much
work it takes to give the
world a beautiful,
free day . . .

As Sunday speaks, the other days, understandably shocked, listen to her list the other things she wants to do.  Monday, ever practical, suggests they find a new day.  Posters are posted from one end of the earth to the other end.  The six remaining days, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday start interviews the next day.  It's safe to say, the witty commentary begins, also.

First up is FunDay followed by BunDay (hair).  Canines make an appearance, suggesting all the right reasons for DogDay.  Not to be excluded a group of cats offer conversation on the sidelines suggesting Caturday.  After getting some promising proposals, Friday and Saturday want more similar ideas.  And this is when the real trouble (comedy) commences.  The cats are still on the scene, ever hopeful.

The rivalry heightens.  Clever contenders disguise themselves and solicit partners, claiming teamwork.  There were crazy days like UnicornsWithHornsForHornsDay and ridiculous days like GelatinSuitsDay.  Of course, the dogs are vigilant making a third showing which has the cats in a furry.  When it seems as though the word sensible has vanished from everyone's vocabulary, Monday asks a question.

A small, quiet voice says two simple words.

I do.

As Monday continues the chat, she, the other days and readers are astonished by the child's other words.  The most surprised is Sunday.  All Sunday needs, all anyone needs, is exactly what this child is offering.  It is indeed A New Day.


Author Brad Meltzer through dialogue, narrative, and details supplies us with page-turning action.  We promptly step into this story and its fun.  We embrace that dialogue, text, and details creating the outlandish exaggerations found in the new day presentations.  But let's be clear, Sunday's claims are sincere and true.  When we compare her desires with those of the new day possibilities, amid our laughter, we feel Monday's frustrations.  This is why our souls soar along with Sunday's and the other six days at the end.  Brad Meltzer must have had loads of fun writing this story.  Here is a passage.

Oh, c'mon!
Those're the
same dogs as
before---
but with
mustaches!

This isn't fair.
When do we get to
pitch Caturday?

The cats were right about it being unfair.
But as word began to spread that teamwork was a good thing . . .  


The remarkable, signature artwork of Dan Santat is boldly presented on the matching and open dust jacket and book case.  On the front, right, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday each have defining characteristics and distinguishing colors.  In an ingenious design, the title text is placed in an outline of a possible new day personality.

On the back, left, is the WANTED A NEW DAY poster.  The description of the qualities needed are lengthy and explicit.  They describe what many experience on a Sunday.  You know something, the opposite of what is expected to happen, is in the offing when you read the final line on the poster.

SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY

On the opening and closing endpapers, Dan Santat introduces and finishes his pictorial interpretation of this story.  On the first set, the six perplexed days, looking worried and disgusted, stand on an enlarged calendar within some of the square lines.  On the second set, the six days, now overjoyed, have left the audition table.  They are hugging Sunday, have open arms, and all are smiling.

On a dramatic two-page picture for the title page are seven vertical panels.  Each one contains one of the days except for the first one.  There is a smudge where Sunday should be.  These illustrations prepared

with watercolor, color pencil, crayon, and digitally rendered in Adobe Photoshop

are highly animated.  Facial expressions, body postures and clothing are captivating.  Background colors showcase dialogue displayed in speech bubbles.  

Sometimes a single page will focus on one thing, bringing us close to that item or person. Other times a series of horizontal or vertical panels will present the new days.  At times we are looking at the six-day audition panel, other times we are behind them or even looking down on the action.  Every time you read this book; you'll notice a different brilliant detail.  You'll burst out laughing at the text and image following the dedication and publication page at the end.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for DogDay.  It is a two-page image.  All the days are merrily enjoying the dogs and puppies.  It's a day where everyone will get a dog or a puppy.  There are dogs present in all kinds of shapes and sizes.  Some of the days have left their chairs to get closer to the dogs and puppies.  One puppy has joined Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at the table.  Off to the right side, one dog is talking with a disgruntled cluster of cats. 


Brightly hued and lively images paired with light-hearted, inventive language beckon readers into the book, A New Day written by Brad Meltzer with illustrations by Dan Santat.  You'll carry this funny, lovable story in your heart, remembering how the right two words can be all we need.  I know you'll want a copy of this title for both your collections, personal and professional.

To learn more about Brad Meltzer and Dan Santat and their other work, access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Brad Meltzer has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Dan Santat has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view the opening endpapers.  Here is a link to a clip on Good Morning America with Brad Meltzer speaking about this book. 




The two other blog posts in the Better Together series are here and here.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Better Together #2

It is not only people who respond to compassion.  Humans with animal companions, veterinarians who heal and care for them, and scientists who study them usually agree the response from animals approached and treated with kindness is favorable.  In fact, there is evidence some animals experience a varied range of emotions. (Animal Emotions: Exploring Passionate Natures: Current interdisciplinary research provide compelling evidence that many animals experience such emotions as joy, fear, love, despair, and grief---we are not alone by Marc Bekoff, BioScience, Volume 50, Issue 10, October 2000)  An act of compassion or harmony does not need to be a grand gesture.  It can be as simple as a glance filled with warmth and affection.

Sometimes, the least of us are the ones who need to receive that glance, a caring word, a helping hand or even something done in complete anonymity the most.  Tiny Kitty, Big City (Balzar + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, March 2, 2021) written and illustrated by Tim Miller simply, truthfully and with great affection is a gentle reminder of what it means to be charitable.  When we are mindful of others everyone wins.

Tiny kitty.
Big city.

When you are a tiny kitty, the city is more crowded.  It is a forest of feet and legs.  You hurry through the maze of people and vehicles as quickly and safely as possible.

Loud noises and barking dogs are frightening.  Bravery comes when joining with an iconic ally.  A warm day welcomes rest.  

An idyllic afternoon is spent dining and playing.  As evening descends, so does a snowstorm.  Nothing would be better than the warmth of a home.  Tiny kitty is chilly.

In darkness, a bluesy beat beckons.  Hearts swell at a serenade.  Love finds a way.


Using two words, kitty and city, and adding carefully selected, single adjectives, author Tim Miller tells a tale of being lost and found, and of finding what you may not have known you've lost.  The two-word phrases toggle back and forth as opposites and as responses.  The way this narrative is purposefully presented, we are able to understand the personality of the kitty and the characteristics of the city.  In those revelations, the tiny kitty and big city are able to meet in heartwarming rapport.  Here are two more two-word phrases.

Wildlife city.
Playful kitty.


Opening the dust jacket, we see the story beginning.  To the left, back, of the spine on pale blue is the tiny kitty peering from the inside of a tipped cardboard box.  On the front, right, the tiny kitty looks large compared to the big city in the background.  This reader likes to think of that as foreshadowing.  It is a hopeful concept.  The title text and tiny kitty are varnished.

You cannot look at the book case without smiling.  Across the opened book case is tiny kitty's face, up close and personal.  The nose and mouth are placed at the bottom of the spine.  One eye is on the left and the other eye is on the right.  This is a soul-to-soul stare.

Across the opening and closing endpapers, tiny pawprints, in blue on a cream canvas, loop back and forth beginning in the upper left-hand corner and running off the lower, right-hand corner.   The loops do change lengths.  Instead of going off the edge on the right side on the closing endpapers, the happy ending of this story is presented.

There are notable details for readers to see.  The words for the dedication are in the shape of a heart.  On the title page tiny kitty is staring into a puddle.  The kitty and the big city are reflected there.  Of the making of these illustrations artist Tim Miller says:

This book was made with acrylic gouache, with digital touch-ups.  Also my cat was sitting on my lap while I worked, so you might find some of her hair in the pictures.

Black lines define each element in these images.  Tim Miller presents multiple perspectives on his double-page pictures and his full-page pictures.  We look at the world from tiny kitty's point of view, from a person's point of view, and from a bird's gaze at the city below it.  These illustrations are full of emotion, fright, wonder, exhilaration, courage, contentment, fun, joy, and love.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  The sky is golden in the middle of a sunny day.  Trunks and bare branches of trees rise in front of background buildings on the left.  In front of these a large "library lion", facing left, stretches across both pages.  A familiar building fills a large portion of the right side.  Asleep under the majestic feline's face is tiny kitty on the large legs and paws.


Guaranteed to be a read-aloud favorite and much requested title, Tiny Kitty, Big City written and illustrated by Tim Miller needs to be on your personal and professional bookshelves. In his dedication Tim Miller conveys his passion and purpose for this book.  We are grateful to him.

To learn more about Tim Miller and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Tim Miller has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. This title is discussed, and Tim Miller is interviewed at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read. and at teacher librarian Travis Jonker's 100 Scope Notes.  Don't miss either of these posts!  They are fabulous as is the post Tim Miller wrote for the Nerdy Book Club



If you were to ask a group of people of various ages a year ago how they define peace, would those same people answer differently today?  Perhaps, a lot of their replies would change.  A global pandemic has a way of altering perspectives and priorities.  Also, if you were to ask this group how to obtain peace, express peace, or give peace, would their thinking have shifted?  Peace, Paz and Frieden (English, Spanish, and German translations of the same book) (North|South, March 2, 2021) written by Baptiste Paul and Miranda Paul with illustrations by Esteli Meza allows all ages to ponder those very questions.  It expresses through universal actions in easily understood words and lively, luminescent images, peace is for everyone, everywhere, and always.  

Peace is a hello,
a smile,
a hug.

Peace is for those who dare to be different and for those who quietly work alone.  When we show respect for others, extending common courtesies to them like looking at them when we share conversations, that is peace.  Sometimes peace starts with an unspoken gesture.  When shared ideas are discovered, that unspoken gesture blooms into a movement.

When we give to others when we have more than we need, that is peace.  Do these actions happen immediately?  No.  Peace is a good habit to nurture and have.  It's something we carry with us as if it is a part of our bodies. 

Peace is acknowledging our mistakes to ourselves and to others.  This peace brings a calm during day and night, happiness and sorrow.  Where there has been life, there has been peace.  What can and will we do to bring it to all parts of our planet?


Having read this aloud in both English and Spanish, the words of Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul (and translator Aida Salazar), gently sing off the pages in the sweetest of melodies.  The thoughts and truths supplied through rhyming text envelope you.  The words in this narrative are an invitation readers will be unable to resist.  With intention the selected actions are possible, releasing all to enjoy the results.  Here is a passage.

Peace is on purpose.
Peace is a choice.
Peace lets the smallest of us
have a voice.

La paz es a proposito.
La paz es una eleccion.
La paz permite a los mas pequenitos
tener una voz.


When you look at the front (right) and back (left) of the opened dust jacket, it is like you are looking at a portrait of peace.  Look at the children from all backgrounds with different animals among a paradise of plants and trees.  Everyone is happy.  Everyone is enjoying the company of the others without discord.  On the back (left), there are three children, six animals and two insects, a butterfly and a bee. Across one of the large leaves, it reads:

Peace is a choice.
La paz es a proposito.

On the book case a muted gold is the canvas.  On the left side is information about the book and its creators.  On the front a sturdy brown trunk and several branches are seats for children and animals.  The leaves are a hue of blue and some are a shade of pink.  This tree scene is circled by a pale peach background.  At the base of the trunk an animal peeks out at readers.  The same white dove seen on the front of the jacket flies toward the tree here.

On the opening and closing endpapers three tiny flowers dot the bottom of a deep blue canvas.  The tree shown on the book case is placed in the center.  The children and animals are gone.  Within the blush-colored leaves is the word peace in multiple languages.

In a word, the artwork here by Esteli Meza is stunning.  Her style is distinctive, replete with vibrant rich colors.  The flora is bold and symbolic.  Children from all parts of the world are represented on each of the double-page pictures.  They are actively engaged with each other and the animals.  

With each reading you will notice a new detail.  When there is more than one animal, it looks as though they are a family.  Fish in the ocean swim forming the shape of a larger fish.  The white dove is in every image.  Readers will gasp at the four-page gatefold at the end of the book.  

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for a single sentence.  It is night.  On the right we can see a sliver of the sky and two stars.  The dove is sleeping on a slim branch which winds up the right side and along the bottom on the right.  Two other branches fan out along the bottom on the right and left.  The body of a dozing lion covers most of the two pages.  A gray cat with a curved body and a girl with red hair in a braid lean against the lion's body.  A zebra is next to them.  The hues and pattern in the girl's dress complement the branches and leaves shown on the edges.  You know sweet dreams are being enjoyed by all.


This book, Peace, Paz, and Frieden written by Baptiste Paul and Miranda Paul with illustrations by Esteli Meza, is one to keep close.  It not only depicts peace with excellence but brings peace to all who read it.  You will want to read the Authors' Note at the end.  I highly recommend you place a copy or two in your professional collection as well as in your personal collection.

To learn more about Baptiste Paul, Miranda Paul, and Esteli Meza and their other work, please access their respective websites by following the link attached to their names.  Baptiste Paul has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Miranda Paul has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.  Esteli Meza has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website are interior images, and multiple teacher resources.  At Simon & Schuster, there is one image not shown at the publisher's website.  At Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read., the book trailer is premiered. Baptiste and Miranda talk about this book. 

UPDATE:  This title is showcased by author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson at her site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  There is an interview with Tim Miller and considerable process art.