Quote of the Month

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

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.

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