Quote of the Month

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

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
of any

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.



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
but with

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.


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.

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