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.
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.
UPDATE: On April 20, 2021 this title is highlighted by author, reviewer, and blogger, Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Here Corey R. Tabor talks about the spark for this book and his illustrative process.
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.)