Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Contrary Companions

For readers of this blog, to you it comes as no surprise I am an over-the-top lover of dogs.  My life feels less than whole unless I am sharing it with a dog.  What you may not know is one of my all-time favorite dog books is Homer by Elisha Cooper.  I wrote about it here.  Even reading it today, my eyes filled with tears.  Dogs give love freely.  Dogs understand the meaning of family.  Dogs recognize and experience complete contentment.

In his latest book, Elisha Cooper again turns to canine and feline characters. (Two cats are featured in his 2018 Caldecott Honor winning title, BIG CAT, little cat.)  In YES & NO (Roaring Brook Press, April 13, 2021), Elisha Cooper presents the essence of dogs and cats and their attitudes to daily life.  Their responses to an unseen narrator are both profound and delightful.  Let's meet this puppy and its cat (or as the cat would say, let's meet the cat and its puppy).

Good morning, good morning!
It's time to wake up.

The puppy responds to the voice and the next question with a resounding yes.  The cat replies with a distinct no.  The next two questions asked receive wholehearted positives from the dog and barely audible negatives from the cat.  So begins a day of contrasts.

When it comes to mealtime, the puppy is ecstatic, but readers understand why the cat says it has previously eaten.  When requested to play nicely together, the puppy is thrilled.  The cat can't get away fast enough.  They are finally told to romp around outside. 

For the puppy this is the next best thing to paradise.  For the cat, it is tolerated.  Apparently, the activities in which they are engaged are not quite appropriate.  They are implored to find others.  This time both of them do, but what has the cat's attention?  Hole digging is unacceptable!  They must go now and take care of each other.  Soon they've, after wandering and wondering, left the yard for a grassy hilltop.

Here in silence and still as stone, they sit.  Side by side they look at the world spread before them.  Too soon, they are called home.  Now, the puppy answers no to all the questions.  The cat does not speak.

The puppy, like many of us, is reluctant to end a beautiful day.  It is the cat that eases the youngster into rest.  With the final query, the puppy finally says yes, but the cat . . . 

For those sharing their lives with cats or dogs or both, they know it is perfectly natural to speak in conversation with them as if they speak human language themselves.  This technique by Elisha Cooper to introduce the unseen narrator is ingenious and simply perfect.  The replies of the puppy and cat written by Elisha Cooper are typical to the extent you'll find yourself laughing out loud.  They ring with veracity, leaving room for his illustrations to extend their meaning.  Here is a passage.

Can we all clean up a little?



In looking at the open dust jacket, the puppy's and the cat's personalities are apparent.  The one looks ready to play and cuddle and the other has their back to you.  Here they are quintessential yes and no.  The puppy's body is completed on the spine and slightly to the left of the spine.  Rolling on the background on the back are three pieces of fruit, knocked from the kitchen table in one of the morning scenes.

The open book case presents a night setting.  We are looking directly down on the home, yard, and hill.  It's like an architectural landscape drawing in shades of gray and silver.  The area is framed in a heavy black line and wider shadow.  The cat sits on the hill facing the home.  There is an exquisite sense of calm in this picture.

On the opening and closing endpapers is the same scene.  From the bottom up we see a silhouette of the land, trees, home, and hill.  In the first one, the cat sits on the hill as the sun rises.  It is in hues of orange.  In the second one, the colors are tones of deep blue with a full moon over the chimney of the house.  The cat watches, looking at its home.

Elisha Cooper created these illustrations

with ink and watercolor.

He begins the pictorial story on the verso and title pages with a double-page picture.  The cat is climbing from the outside through an open window.  The cat is moving toward the puppy curled on a rusty-red blanket on the floor.  The title text is placed on the closed curtain of a window.

The illustrations place an emphasis on the pacing altering in size from full-page pictures to a collection of smaller images to indicate motion, and to dramatic two-page visuals.  Your eyes flow wonderfully from page turn to page turn, illustration to illustration.  There is never a doubt as to the mood or emotions of the puppy or cat.  Elisha Cooper depicts them masterfully. The disparity between the puppy's exuberance and the cat's indifference are priceless.  

When they initially go outside, every possible position of the dog is indicated in eight small pictures.  The cat calmly walks along the top of a fence.  When the unseen narrator finally sends them out of the yard, Elisha Cooper gives readers not one, not two, not three, but four marvelous two-page, wordless illustrations. 

One of these is one of my many, many favorite pictures in this title.  We move in closer to the puppy and cat as they reach the crest of the hill.  To the left and behind the puppy are patchwork pastures and farm buildings.  To the right of the cat are rolling, sharply peaked hills.  On the left, the puppy stretches in a familiar position of smelling the air with its nose lifted to get the best possible smell.  On the right, the cat sits, back to us with its tail tip peeking through the grass.  It is staring in the distance.  This is the ideal setting to prepare readers for the next picture which is breathtaking and tender.

There is something extraordinary about YES & NO written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper.  With each page turn this knowledge grows in you.  This is not only a book about contrary companions.  This is a book about looking at life differently and finding harmony.  This harmony is reached when common values are found and shared.  I highly recommend you place a copy or two on your professional shelves and have a copy in your personal collection.

To learn more about Elisha Cooper and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  At his website you can view one of my favorite illustrations.  Elisha Cooper has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrations.  I know you will enjoy reading Elisha Cooper's guest post at the Nerdy Book Club titled How To Write A Great Children's Book.  And you must read this conversation between Elisha Cooper and Betsy Bird at School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production.  (It's good to know I am not the only one who gets teary looking at some of the pictures.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

To The Fallen But Not Forgotten

You never forget being there, even though decades pass.  The solemnity, near reverence, of the atmosphere wraps around all who visit there.  Memories swirl in your mind of conflicts past and present and those you know who have served in our military.  This place, though, is for those who have served, fallen and are unnamed.  

Servicewomen and servicemen have been guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier every moment of every day since midnight on July 2, 1937.  This book, Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Candlewick Press, March 2, 2021) written by Jeff Gottesfeld with illustrations by Matt Tavares, gives voice to the history of this monument and those who protect those laid to rest there.  It is a remarkable tribute, lingering long after you've finished reading.

I am an Unknown.  I am one of many.

We fell for the last time in the Argonne Forest.
At Somme. Belleau Wood.
Facedown in trenches,
faceup on hillsides.
We fell a thousand ways.

The narrator concludes this opening soliloquy with haunting words about his and others' anonymity.  They continue with the heartbreak of families who cannot honor fallen members and friends.  In 1921, one unknown, is selected to represent all the unknowns.  This person is placed in the Capitol so people can morn and pay tribute to his sacrifice.  He is then taken to the Tomb.

Soon the importance of the Tomb is lost.  People go there to picnic.  Fortunately, there are others who stop this violation.  Then . . . one night under a waning crescent moon, twenty-one steps are heard.  This unknown is forever in the care of another.

To become one of the guards is an earned honor.  The clothing they wear, the manner in which they walk, and hold their arms and weapon are the epitome of precision.  These men and women come from all walks of life prior to entering the army and becoming part of the distinguished Tomb Guards.

After the World War I Unknown is placed at the Tomb, Unknowns from World War II and the Korean War are laid there.  The Vietnam Unknown is eventually removed because their identity is discovered.  Today this tomb is empty.

Tomb Guards spend every moment when not on duty preparing for their watch.  Everything about them is perfection, their minds, hearts, and that which can be seen by others.  In all weather, at all times of the day and night, with and without people watching, the Tomb Guards are vigilant taking their twenty-one steps.  The Unknowns are listening, knowing they are not alone.

To open this narrative, a decision was made to include The Sentinel's Creed, author unknown.  The first two sentences are brimming with truth.

My dedication to this sacred duty
is total and whole-hearted.

In the responsibility bestowed on me
never will I falter.

To have an Unknown be the speaker makes these words penned by Jeff Gottesfeld genuinely personal and moving.  This Unknown speaks honestly for all those fallen before him and after him.  There is a quiet power in what he says.  Readers will appreciate his introduction of the first Tomb Guard, the guards' specific work routines and dedication.  Into his story he weaves a history of the other Unknowns and a final tribute to the Tomb Guards.

Jeff Gottesfeld's writing in this book is poignant and poetic.  Twice he uses a list of single sentences to describe the dedication and work of the Tomb Guards.  You cannot read these without feeling a deep sense of respect for them and the Unknowns.  Here is a passage.

Late one half-moon night,
I heard footsteps.

The sharp click of heels.  Silence.

Another click. More silence.

Twenty-one footsteps.


Twenty-one seconds of silence.


Twenty-one seconds of silence.

Twenty-one more steps.

With each step, my war was over.

These illustrations 

done in pencil and painted digitally

by Matt Tavares are striking in their authenticity and emotional impact.  The scene of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with a Tomb Guard taking his twenty-one steps on the front continues on the other side of the spine to the far-left edge of the back.  The golden glow from the sun is reflected in the clouds on both the front and back.  Leafy green tree boughs rise from all sides of the Tomb's platform.  You can read the inscription on the Tomb.  





If you listen, you'll expect to hear the twenty-one steps and the resounding click.

On the book case, the scene is night.  The moon is the same as it was on the first night a Tomb Guard took their first twenty-one steps.  A few stars are sprinkled in the sky.  On the front the Tomb stands silent and resolute.  On the back the Tomb Guard walks to the left, gun on their shoulder.  They are wearing a long coat and hat with earmuffs to ward off the chill.  

A muted steel blue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  The first page turn reveals The Sentinel's Creed.  Across the title page is a scene from a war-ravaged battlefield from the first World War.  The sky is dark with smoke from a bomb.  Barbed wire curls around posts and sandbags are placed in front.  A single helmet and canteen litter the ground.

Each two-page picture is a breathtaking reflection of the soldier's words.  Three times there are full-page images, two for those lists of sentences talking about the Tomb Guards and the final image in the winter of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, deep snow falling as footprints signify the twenty-one steps.  Matt Tavares takes us into a home with a soldier's picture placed on a fireplace mantle, to a vista of Arlington National Cemetery in autumn, to the Capitol rotunda as mourners pass the Unknown Soldier in state, and close to the shoes and bottom pantlegs of the first Tomb Guard walking at the Tomb at night.  There is dignity in every line drawn in every illustration.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the above-quoted passage.  It is the close-up of the first Tomb Guard's shoes and pantlegs.  It is a double-page picture.  To the left of the gutter, the step is down.  To the right of the gutter, the step is lifted.  You can see the metal on the bottom heel and toe of the shoe.  The hems and seams of the pants are creased and trim.  The night sky supplies a background with the waning crescent moon above the line of trees on the left.  On the right is a portion of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  This picture is brilliant.

This book, Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier written by Jeff Gottesfeld with illustrations by Matt Tavares, pays homage to many, is a history and a reminder of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country and of those honored few who are sentinels for them.  No matter how many times you read this title, each time you will feel an intense appreciation for the Tomb Guards and the Unknowns.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.  

To learn more about Jeff Gottesfeld and Matt Tavares and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Matt Tavares has a few interior illustrations on the page for this book on his site.  Jeff Gottesfeld has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Matt Tavares has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.  At the publisher's website you can download a discussion guide.  At Penguin Random House you can view some interior images.  You might be interested in reading the information found at the Society of the Honor Guard, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Remembrance Of A Food

It sustains us physically.  It sustains us mentally.  We are grateful to have it.  We are saddened, and sometimes ill, when it is absent. The gathering of it, the preparation of it, the serving of it, and the enjoyment of it are laden with memories.  Words about it fill pages of books.  It is celebrated in song.  

Food in some form is necessary for us to survive.  What we eat, when we eat, who we eat with (or not), and where we eat can be a matter of routine and customs or change often.  Watercress (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, March 30, 2021) written by Andrea Wang with pictures by Jason Chin is an intimate portrait of a particular food and its place in a family's history.  As children we can never truly know the full extent of our parent's past, until they make the choice to reveal it to us. 

We are in the old Pontiac,
the red paint faded by years of
glinting Ohio sun,
pelting rain,
and biting snow.

An unexpected cry from the mother has the car suddenly halting.  Both parents simultaneously say the same word, watercress.  There is something rarely heard in the tone of their voices.  From the trunk of the car, they remove a paper bag, and scissors, the worse for wear.

The children, an older brother and sister, are asked to help gather the watercress.  They remove their socks and shoes to wade in the cold, muddy water of the ditch.  When a car goes by, the daughter hopes it is no one she knows.  Her brother teases her with a soggy mess of watercress, and she grows weary of stuffing it into the sack.  Not soon enough for the daughter, everything and everyone is back in the car and heading home.

At dinner that evening the daughter refuses to eat the watercress.  It represents, to her, all the free things in their lives which set her aside from being her perception of normal.  The mother leaves the table and returns with a photograph of her family in China.  Her younger brother is in the photograph.  Of him, the brother and sister know nothing.

As her mother tells a sorrowful tale of her childhood in China, the girl is filled with shame for her thoughts and refusal to eat the watercress.  She now understands the significance of the leafy vegetable.  She begins to eat it, savoring its unique flavor.  It is a taste she will remember.  This is a story she will tell, to be passed from generation to generation.

As you read the free-verse poetic text penned by Andrea Wang, you feel as though you've stepped back in time and place.  The use of simile and alliteration and detailed descriptions create a sensory experience.  Regardless of your family's history, empathy for this girl, her parents, and the entire family is foremost in your mind and heart.  We identify with her first-person narrative and the inclusion of some conversation.  Here is a passage.

The tops of the cornstalks make
lines that zigzag
across the horizon.
Mom shouts,
and the car comes to
an abrupt, jerking stop.

Mom's eyes are as sharp as
the tip of
a dragon's claw.

The illustrations rendered by Jason Chin 

using watercolor on 140 pound cold press Saunders watercolor paper

are first visible to readers on the open dust jacket.  It is here we see his color choices, each representing the present and the past and a blend of the two.  The cornstalks on the right, front, transition to stalks of bamboo across and left of the spine.  Our narrator unhappily wading in the ditch to gather watercress along the side of the road becomes, on the back, her mother and her younger brother as children seated on a grassy hill overlooking their village.  The sky here is not that of a sunny day in Ohio, but a dismal sky in a China suffering during a famine.

On the book case Jason Chin presents us with an up-close view of watercress growing in a watery setting.  The circular leaves of varying shades of green float on a darker surface.  In the lower, right-hand corner is a dragonfly.  Its red body and translucent wings rest on top of the watercress.  Its presence is suggestive of transformation.

A deep teal covers the opening and closing endpapers.  It is close in color to the varnished title text on the dust jacket.  On the initial title page, we see the red Pontiac in the distance driving down the country road between midwestern fields of crops.  On the formal title page, the perspective has shifted.  The rows of corn are close to us on the left side of the image.  The car is driving down the dirt road directly at readers, on the right.  A row of utility poles line the road on the right.  With a page turn, the point of view alters again.  The car spans, close, across both pages.  The narrator of the story, the daughter, looks out the back window.  Farther away, next to her, sits her brother.

With each page turn, we are always immersed in the story, but our vantage point changes.  To elevate the text and emphasize pacing, the illustration sizes are either double-page pictures or full-page visuals.  Like the dust jacket, there is a stunning display, a blend of the present and the past.  We are aware of the emotional state of each family member by their facial features and body postures.  You find yourself filling with compassion for each one.

One of my many favorite images is a double-page illustration.  For me, a drive in the country becomes the beginning of a huge revelation.  On the left is the corn field growing up to the watery ditch filled with watercress.  There is a small grassy slope from the road to the ditch.  On the right the road comes into view with the red Pontiac demanding the focus of our attention.  The mother is looking out the passenger window at the watercress.  The father is leaning in her direction, noticing what she is seeing.  The sky reflects the hazy heat of a summer afternoon. 

The sheer beauty of the words and paintings in this story, Watercress written by Andrea Wang with art by Jason Chin, not only envelopes the reader but resonates long after the final sentence is read, and the last image is seen.  This is a book to read repeatedly.  At the close of the book is an author's note and an illustrator's note.  You'll want a copy for your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Andrea Wang and Jason Chin and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the link attached to their names.  You will find numerous useful links at Andrea Wang's site.  Andrea Wang has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Jason Chin has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and TwitterScholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, features Andrea Wang and this book on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Both Andrea Wang and Jason Chin talk about this book at Publishers Weekly.  This book is highlighted on NPR, Picture This.  An interview with Andrea Wang at The Yarn, School Library Journal, by Colby Sharp gives you further insight about this title.  At author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, this title and Jason Chin are showcased.  At the publisher's website is an educator's guide.  At Penguin Random House, you can view the initial title page.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Earth Week 2021 #3

Today, April 22, 2021 is Earth Day! The theme for this year's Earth Day is Restore Our Earth.  For those who treasure this planet, every day brings new news, some good, some bad, about the state of this home to all living things.

In September 2019, Time magazine released a double issue devoted to climate.  One of the articles in this issue, The Amazon Rain Forest Is Nearly Gone: We Went To The Front Lines To See If It Could Be Saved, contains some startling facts.  Did you know in 2019 there was an 111% increase in fires in the Amazon?  Deforestation is claiming this vast area at a devastating rate.  We do have choices.

Zonia's Rain Forest (Candlewick Press, March 30, 2021) written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal presents an intimate and affectionate view of the Amazon rain forest.  In a single day, a little girl, a member of the Ashaninka people, reveals her bond to this natural wonder and its inhabitants.  Her tie, her pledge, to this space becomes our tie, our pledge, to this space.

Zonia lives with those she loves in the rain forest,
where it is always green and full of life. 

As this child starts her day, the world around her speaks to her.  She listens and replies.  When she encounters animals, some familiar and some unfamiliar, she greets them all equally.

Conversations with new arrivals are joyful occasions.  Zonia stops to remind special friends of their status, favorites.  She rides on top of a speedy pal.  You'll never guess its name.

At the riverbank, two mammals residing in the water, swim away.  She asks them a question.  Mothers and their new children remind her of her new brother.  Zonia plays games with some animals, considers the point of view of others and selects a few to help her center and calm.

Heading home after a morning spent with her rain forest companions, Zonia suddenly stops.  Spread before her is the opposite of green and full of life.  What has happened?  This worried and alarmed little girl hurries home, showing what she has gathered to her mother.  Her mother answers her declaration.  Zonia makes a choice as she has done each day of her life.  We, too, do have choices.

As you read this story penned by Juana Martinez-Neal, you feel a melody stir within you.  When Zonia meets each rain forest dweller, a declarative sentence is usually followed by dialogue, she talking to them.  These couplets (or single sentences) are like separate tunes, contributing to a whole song.  Running through the song is sheer joy until she can't believe what she sees.  This dramatic pause leads us to what Zonia is in the center of her soul in the center of her world.  Here is a passage.

If she is lucky, her fastest friend will invite her for a short ride
through the thicket.

"We are mighty!" Zonia says, for that is what she feels in her heart.

The greenery seen on the front, right, of the open dust jacket extends to the edge of the flap, on the top and the bottom.  It continues on the other side of the spine, going to the far-left edge of the flap.  These rain forest leaves frame beautiful Zonia and her blue butterfly companion as well as three other rain forest inhabitants shown on the back, left, of the dust jacket.  A single sentence here invites us to journey with Zonia.  Even now, after seeing Zonia on the front multiple times, I am mesmerized by her expression.  It is as if she knows something we don't, her wisdom far beyond her years.  

On the book case a stunning display in shades of green blended with hues of blue are rain forest leaves.  Among them, on both the back and the front, are tendrils of yellow flowers.  How many readers will notice the hidden insects on the back and the front, one more camouflaged than the other?

On the opening and closing endpapers in two colors of muted orange are butterflies.  Some alone and others so close they appear as one.  You want to stand there and have them flutter around you.  On the initial title page ferns and tendrils frame the text as the blue butterfly pauses under the words.  On the verso and title pages, more flora frames text and Zonia.  The delicate blue butterfly is near to her.

Each illustration by Juana Martinez-Neal was

created with acrylic, colored pencil, pastel, ink, and linocuts and woodcuts on handmade banana bark paper.

The fabric of the paper fashions a welcoming surface for all the additional elements and us.  The fine lines used everywhere, the intricate patterns of the leaves, the exquisite details on the homes and the colorful material of the clothing worn by Zonia and her mother all supply us with a sense of being in the rain forest with this little girl.  With each page turn, readers will be looking for the blue morpho butterfly.

All the double-page images in this book are my favorite illustrations, but one is the essence of good cheer.  In this scene, Zonia discovers three Andean cock-of-the-rock birds.  Their bright orange-red feathers on their upper bodies contrasts strikingly with the black and gray plumes on their lower bodies.  Their tiny circular eyes seem to look straight at you.  Their chatter has Zonia smiling with her eyes closed as she presses her hands to her cheeks.  She and two birds are on the right and the third bird shares a vine-entwined branch with the butterfly.  The way the branches, ferns, and leaves weave around the birds, Zonia, and the butterfly is enchanting.

Readers will willingly step into the world revealed in Zonia's Rain Forest written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal.  We walk and run from place to place with this remarkable little girl as she approaches and interacts with her animal friends.  And without even a second thought we agree with her final sentence.  At the close of the book is an Ashaninka translation of this narrative, words about the Ashaninka people, facts about the Amazon, threats to the Amazon, and thumbnail portraits of Zonia's friends with their common and scientific names. and a few Selected Sources and Resources.  There is one final page of back matter.  This is a book to be read and shared widely and often.  Be sure to have a copy in your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Juana Martinez-Neal and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At her website and on the page for this title are multiple resources.  Juana Martinez-Neal has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website are links to a teacher's guide and author notes.  At Penguin Random House are interior images.  At author, reviewer, and blogger, Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Juana Martinez-Neal and this title are featured.  There are multiple process pictures.  At author, blogger and teacher librarian Travis Jonker's 100 Scope Notes, the cover is revealed along with a short interview with Juana Martinez-Neal.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Earth Week 2021 #2

Sometimes, the smallest living beings on our planet have one of the greatest impacts.  Our world, our Earth, would struggle greatly without their presence.  They are directly responsible for the growth of food keeping a multitude of individuals alive.  In fact, they produce food necessary and enjoyed by countless others.

Bees are an essential link in the chain of survival on a global level.  On December 20, 2017, at the United Nations, May 20 was designated as World Bee DayBruno the Beekeeper: A Honey Primer (Candlewick Press, March 2, 2021) written and illustrated by Aneta Frantiska Holasova (translated from Czech by Andrew Lass) presents information about the aspects of different bees residing in beekeeping hives, the hives, and beekeepers.  It follows the work of Bruno through four seasons of beekeeping.  

In his heart and soul, Bruno is a beekeeper.  But how did it all begin?  When he was still a small bear, he enjoyed a carefree life full of mischief and fun, as is usually the case with little bears.  He used a slingshot, he wandered outdoors, and he played in the forest, where he much preferred to be rather than in school.  

Life had other plans for Bruno; he was gifted through inheritance with his grandfather's bees.  These bees, we are told, are like other flying insects, but each of three kinds have specific tasks.  We learn of worker bees, drones, and queen bees.  Diagrams explain their anatomy.  Words and pictures clarify their development.

The four main parts of a hive are discussed, as is beekeeper garb.  We are warned of those creatures prone to attacking bees and their way of life.  Next, we step, season by season, into the realm of Bruno's beekeeping.

In late summer and autumn, Bruno prepares the bees and the hives for winter.  Every item, supers and combs, is carefully cleaned and stored.  Beeswax and propolis are removed.  Grandma helps Bruno make new food for the bees' feast during winter.  Did you know beekeepers listen to their hives in the winter to know they are safe?  During winter months, Bruno and Grandma work to repair portions of the hive and build new ones prior to spring.

With spring comes flowers and a special food for the bees made by Bruno.  What do you think it is?  (You'll never guess.)  The queen is gently marked.  Those objects previously removed are returned to their positions in the hives.  Let the swarming start!  It is now summer.  Honey harvesting is meticulously done in earnest.  Bruno and Grandma enjoy the fruits of the bees' labors and their own.

With the preface supplied by Aneta Frantiska Holasova, we begin to shadow Bruno in his world of beekeeping.  First, short paragraphs and well-labeled pictures inform us of the facts about the tiny creatures about to become an intimate part of Bruno's life.  It's like when doing research before you try a new endeavor.  During each of the seasons, a conversational narrative takes us through each of the steps needed in caring for the bees and hives.  At times, the focus is on a particular portion of that management.  Other times, we follow the process for using beeswax, propolis, or the honey.  Here is a passage.

Removing the Supers
In late summer, Bruno the beekeeper removes the
supers from the hives and prepares them for the
next year.  He must work very carefully and clean
all the supers of the bits and pieces of old wax
and propolis.  When he's finished, he places them 
in the honey house.  It is dry in there, and mice 
can't get to them.

The back and front of the open book case give readers a first look at the warm and glowing color palette used by Aneta Frantiska Holasova, as well as the intricate details prevalent in all her images.  All the elements on the front, right, are varnished except for the text.  To the left of the spine, we find a blurb and author information above three small pictures of Bruno at work with his hives.

A crisp white covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the first set, on the left side is a single hive.  Swarming from the hive is a cloud of bees which weave off the far-right side.  On the second set, the swarm continues to the middle of the right side.  Here a single bee is leading as the group moves higher and higher.

Bees dot the pages before the title page.  Here Bruno moves a part of the hive as bees keep him company.  These watercolor pictures by Aneta Frantiska Holasova are delicate, exquisite, and enchanting while being informative.  When facts are given about insects, flowers, and pests, it is as if we are reading scientific journals.  The diagrams are fantastic.  Careful readers will notice, though, some humor tucked in other places.  

When Bruno is engaged in his beekeeping activities there is a combination of single-page illustrations with smaller explanatory pictures.  We are given varying perspectives depending on the undertaking.  For each of the seasonal divisions there are colorful pastoral scenes. There are multiple images without words.

One of my favorite combination of pictures is for the text titled Listening to the Bees.  On the left side are three panels, one large and two smaller squares on either side of the text.  To the right is a full-page visual.  On the top of the left, Bruno sleeps in his bed, hugging his teddy bear.  His feet extend past the covers.  On the floor is a large jar of honey, his socks, pants, slippers, and a curled furry companion beneath his bed.  Next to him on a table is a clock counting down the seasons.  It points to winter.  It is featured, closer, in one of the square images.  On the wall is a bee portrait.  In the second square illustration, Bruno is awake and stretching.  In the full-page image on the right, Bruno is shown outside as snow falls.  He is listening to the hives with a special tube.

Readers will immediately establish a connection with this beekeeping bear as he protects and provides for his bees.  In Bruno the Beekeeper: A Honey Primer written and illustrated by Aneta Frantiska Holasova, readers will increase their understanding of bees and the work entailed in becoming proficient beekeepers.  This is certain to promote discussions about the value of bees and our part in assisting in their continuation.  I highly recommend this title for both your professional and personal collections.

Aneta Frantiska Holasova has an account on Instagram.  At Penguin Random House you can view interior images.  

Last month a new title was added to a stellar series.  In the first three books, If Sharks Disappeared, 2017, If Polar Bears Disappeared, 2018 and If Elephants Disappeared, 2019, we discovered how valuable each specie is to the existence of all other species. If Bees Disappeared (Roaring Brook Press, March 16, 2021) written and illustrated by Lily Williams stresses the urgency necessary to protect bees, all more than 20,000 species

Kent is known as the "Garden of England" for its rolling hills and lush landscapes.  The creatures that live here are
             spiky, and . . .

They are small, but mighty in their purpose.  We discover bees are a keystone species.  In a word, they are essential.  Did you know honeybees appeared about 35 million years ago?  Bees are pollinator champions, the best in the world.


Honeybees are considered a superorganism.

Each of the inhabitants in the hive cannot survive without the others.  The queen, the drones, and the worker bees (females) have individual parts to play.  Honeybees have a huge problem, Colony Collapse Disorder.  Entire hives die together for several reasons, like pesticides and dwindling habitats.  

If we were to suffer the loss of bees, all the plants they pollinate would be gone or drastically change.  Would you want your favorite fruits to disappear?  The birds which rely on these fruits for food would vanish, as would the larger birds that rely on them for meals.  Without birds, pest populations would increase.  This is a grim possible future.

The effects would be global.  Everything we now have, plants, animals, food, and landscapes would be greatly altered.  Pause for a moment to consider what you eat, how plants provide for us in other areas other than food (medicine), or a world absent of birdsong.  It is with gratitude the plight of bees is newsworthy, and there are those striving to keep them thriving.

As this narrative unfolds, you can hardly turn the pages fast enough to learn about the impact bees have on our world.  Lily Williams through her research accurately and completely builds, connection by connection, the history of bees, honeybees, how hives work and the dangers to them.  A gentle tension increases as she presents the domino effect of their loss to other plants and animals.  With pacing and page turns, she introduces with a repetitive phrase very real scenarios.  Paragraphs end with a declarative sentence which is used in the next If.  Here is a passage.

If honeybee pollination disappeared . . . (page turn)

favorite foods like apples, blueberries, avocados,
almonds, chocolate, and coffee would become rarer.
Fruits are important to many people's diets.

The vibrant display of flowers on the right, front, spans over the spine and to the left edge of the back on the matching and open dust jacket and book case.  The title text and the large bee on the right are varnished.  The dotted lines around the bee indicate bees' disappearance.

The purple and yellow daisy-like flowers are larger on the back with a delicate blue butterfly resting on one.  A large sunflower fills the upper and middle portion of the left side.  A honeybee is in the center.  Another flying insect buzzes across the top. 

On the opening and closing endpapers, each one different, are PLANTS HONEYBEES LOVE.  In full color they are placed on a light golden yellow canvas.  Each one is labeled with its common name.

A double-page picture fills the verso and title pages.  The children from the front are with an adult gardener in the English countryside.  Artist Lily Williams includes elements in this scene favorable to bees.  Will readers be able to identify the "house" on one of the fenceposts?

These illustrations 

created digitally in Photoshop

are animated and engaging.  We are treated to double-page scenic pastoral views and double-page closeups of a bee among flowers.  A widening ribbon, on two pages, filled with all kinds of labeled bees leads to honeybees.  On one of the double-page images, Lily Williams includes smaller enlargements of sections of a hive.  As the loss possibilities are presented the colors deepen.  In the final pages, with hope offered, the hues brighten again, leading us to the final fabulous closeup.

One of my many favorite pictures is a closeup of a bee zipping into a floral garden.  We are at eye level with this tiny being.  A glorious array of flowers in pinks, yellows, blues, and numerous shades of green is spread before us.  Slightly right of the gutter is an expanding glow from the shining sun.  This image is so inviting you want to lie in the grass, smell the flowers, and watch the honeybee.

This fourth book, If Bees Disappeared written and illustrated by Lily Williams, in this important collection will have readers eager to do what they can to make sure bees are with us for a very long time.  On the final four pages Lily Williams includes, sections titled Glossary, Honeybees Are In Trouble, How You Can Help Save Bees, Author's Note, Acknowledgments, Bibliography and Additional Sources.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Lily Williams and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At her website you can view some of her marvelous two-page pictures for this book.  Lily Williams has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, PinterestTwitter, and YouTube.  At the publisher's website you can view other interior illustrations. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Earth Week 2021 #1

While those who champion for our planet's preservation, our preservation, are grateful for the establishment of Earth Day in 1970, there is still much to be done.  Time is literally running out.  It is more important than ever; each day should be dedicated to our Earth.  

One book at a time, change happens.  Words are powerful, reader to reader. Hello, Earth!: Poems To Our Planet (Eerdmans Books For Young Readers, February 9, 2021) written by Joyce Sidman with illustrations by Miren Asiain Lora is a conversation through a collection of twenty-two poems between human voices and this big beautiful Blue Planet.  Listen.

It's your children.
Some of your children---
the human ones.
We have been studying you, Earth,
but we long to learn more.  . . .

So begins the first poem.  It's a greeting and a request.  It respectfully concludes with the first of many questions and comments.  There is a large curiosity including many topics needing to be satisfied in this narrative.  How is it that we and Earth spin among the stars together?  It is perplexing to comprehend Earth's size when there are things on this planet so large, we are tiny next to them.

Compared to us, Earth is ancient.  Nevertheless, she is still changing.  Volcanoes and earthquakes signal her shifts.  We hope Earth enjoys the benefits of both the sun and moon.

We acknowledge Earth's ingenuity in giving us clean air through the bounty of plants.  We are astounded by her places of bitter cold and ice and intense heat, wind, and sand.  High tides and low tides tug at her watery masses.  We recognize the vast expanses of water on this place and the life that dwells there; all of it marvelous regardless of its size or shape or abilities.  Knowing what we know about these watery realms, no wonder we continue to explore.  

An apology is given for the constant chaotic commotion humans supply to this planet.  It is known Earth communicates with us other than through words.  Her weather speaks volumes, sometimes loudly and other times in a whisper.  It is humbling.  Even though we do not always show it, we dwell on Earth, our precious planet, with grateful hearts.  

With each reading of the poems in this book, you cannot help but be moved by their sincerity and veracity.  Many different aspects of the planet are covered in the praises penned by Joyce Sidman.  The poems are connected, like us, flowing from one to the other.  They also, like us, can stand alone distinctly.  Here is another partial poem, its beginning and its ending.

What is it like
to spin

and feel the sun
warm all your
beautiful places,
          one by one? . . .

One so close,
a silver sister.

One so far,
a burning star.

The dark endless space covers both the front and back of the open book case.   It is peppered with dots of starlight.  To the left, on the back, is the entire first poem.  The full moon supplies a point for placing the title text.  The swirl of currents and clouds reinforces the constant motion of our planet.  Notice the different animals and people and their activities.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a camel shade.  It is the background for a multitude of tiny blue birds.  It gives the appearance of an endless migration.

Another view of the entire planet is beneath the text on the title page.  A single engine plane flies above it.  A schooner sails below it.

Each double-page picture rendered by Miren Asiain Lora, like the poems, is fascinating and unique.  You need to pause at each one to study the elements and the people.  The intricate details are amazing.  The perspectives in these images are designed to depict the magnificence of Earth and its immense size.

One of my many favorite pictures is for the poem, SUNLIGHT, MOONLIGHT.  It expertly conveys the feeling one gets when standing alone or nearly alone outside on a full moon night.  Most of the two pages are the night sky speckled with a few stars.  Along the bottom of both pages are evergreens.  On the left is a mountain peak, glowing in the moonlight.  Another mountain begins to the left of the gutter and rises on the right in shadow.  At the top of this peak is a single person garbed in clothing for a bit of a chill in the air.  Their left arm is reaching and touching one edge of the glowing full moon.  How many times have you seen a full moon, believing it was so close you could touch it?

This book, Hello, Earth!: Poems To Our Planet written by Joyce Sidman with artwork by Miren Asiain Lora is stunning.  At the close of the book is extensive back matter, More About How The Earth Works (Earth's Age, Earth's Size, Earth's History, Earth's Layers, Plate Tectonics, Continental Drift, Rotation and Orbit, Powerhouse Plants, Altitude, Ecosystems, Gravity, Oceans, Water Cycles And Currents, Human Impact, Messages From The Earth, New Species, and Living With The Earth), and To Find Out More, Explore The Resources Below (Understanding Climate Change, Ways Kids Can Help, Citizen Science Projects and For Further Reading).  I can't imagine a collection, personal or professional, without a copy of this book.

To learn more about Joyce Sidman and Miren Asiain Lora, please access their respective websites by following the link attached to their names.  Be sure to check out the additional resources linked at Joyce Sidman's website for this book.  Joyce Sidman has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  Miren Asiain Lora has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  You can get a peek at some interior images at the blog for Eerdmans Books For Young Readers.

It is a fact that our sea ice and polar glaciers are melting faster than is safe for our planet.  Most of our glaciers are in Antarctica (90%) and Greenland (10%). 

A clever portrayal on the change our glaciers experience is presented in Blue Floats Away (Abrams Books for Young Readers, March 23, 2021) with words by Travis Jonker and pictures by Grant Snider.  As if we are side-by-side with Blue, we navigate the unknown.  We learn about the transformative power of being different.

Little Blue lived near the North Pole with his parents.

They were close. 

You could say they were three peas in the proverbial pod until suddenly with a resounding loud noise, Blue broke apart from his parents.  He was floating away from everything and everyone he knew.  He reassured his mom and dad he would return soon.  Would he?

In short order, Blue could not see his parents.  He could see nothing but sky, sea, and snow, lots of snow.  He was alone for a long time, until he wasn't.  He saw something new and something beautiful.  These two somethings became Blue's best buddies.

From these two companions Blue learned how he might return home.  Wind and ocean currents controlled a lot.  Another thing, an unexpected thing, altered all of Blue's ideas.  It was getting warmer and warmer and warmer.  Blue vanished.  Did he?

Through a continuing and constant process, Blue rose above the water.  He was floating away in the sky.  Again, Blue saw two things.  They taught Blue.  Blue was headed home.  Four fascinating friends stuck with Blue as he grew larger and larger as it got colder and colder.  There were his parents!  And Blue . . . well, Blue was developing into something else again. 

It takes a special kind of author to create affection for an iceberg in readers, but Travis Jonker does it with considerable skill.  And if you don't burst out laughing after reading those first two sentences, you might want to check for a pulse.  With spare text infused with humor and informative insight, we willingly embark with Blue.  Travis ties the two portions of Blue's travels together with repetitive phrases, inviting reader participation.  (I said them aloud the second time.  I woke up my dog.)  Here are three consecutive sentences.

Blue learned things
from his new friends.

About the directions:
East, West, South . . .
and North.
Blue set a course for home. 

One of the first things you notice when you open the dust jacket is the different hues of blue for the water and the shades used for the sky.  On the left, including the spine the water is dark turquoise or teal or a combination of the two and the sky is a vibrant dark pink.  White birds soar in that pink sky.  Shark fins cruise in the water.  On the right the sky is pale orange with paler orange clouds.  The water is ocean blue.  The rock on which the lighthouse sits extends over the spine to the back.  The bold color palette here is used throughout the book, attracting readers of all ages.

On the open book case a deeper royal blue is given to the water which fills nearly all the space.  At the top of the page, for the sky, is a muted steel blue.  Separating the water and sky is a white wavy line.  Blue's parents are placed in the upper, left-hand corner.  Blue moves slowly away in the lower, right-hand corner.

Bright purple covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page, Blue's portrait is in a circle with blue water and orange sky.  This picture is above the text.

These remarkable illustrations by Grant Snider 

made with cut paper, colored pencil, and white ink

are brilliant in their simplicity and characteristics.  (You want to reach out and touch them.)  They take the idea of less-is-more and turn it into an art form.  The facial features on Blue's parents and on Blue, three dots or marks, display a range of emotions.

The color compositions, blues with orange, blues with blue, blues with red, blues with orange and red and bold golden yellow with crisp white are fabulous.  A huge clue is given to careful readers with the unexpected use of green.  The appearance of Blue's new form will have readers smiling.  Most of the illustrations span two pages with the exception of Blue's two major alterations.  Here Grant Snider uses four vertical panels across two pages.

One of my many favorite visuals is after Blue has learned several things from his first two new friends.  Most of the double-page picture is water, a deep dark royal blue.  Above the jagged edge of the wavy water is a peach sky.  On the left, the black rock juts into the water.  From the lighthouse, a golden yellow beam enlarges as it moves off the right side.  Blue floats on the right, a slight smile filled with hope on his face.  His two friends, a sailboat and shark, are on either side and in front of him.  White lines signify wind and currents.

As a read aloud, Blue Floats Away with words by Travis Jonker and pictures by Grant Snider is perfect.  Readers and listeners will be loving Blue so much, they won't realize they are learning about the water cycle.  They will also come to understand change is life and change does not mean gone.  At the close of the book to the left of the Author's Note are four pictures with arrows explaining the water cycle courtesy of Blue.  Travis clarifies the water cycle, polar ice troubles, climate change, and what simple things we can do to help.  Each personal and professional collection needs a copy of this book.

To discover more about Travis Jonker and Grant Snider and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Travis Jonker has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Grant Snider has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  On his blog, 100 Scope Notes, School Library Journal, Travis reveals the cover.  Here he interviews Grant Snider about his illustrative process for this book, including different cover ideas.  At The Yarn, School Library Journal, Travis talks about how this book, his second book, came into being.

If you are interested in a bit more information about sea ice, glaciers, and icebergs check out articles/information at the World Wildlife Fund, the National Snow & Ice Data Center and The Washington Post.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Questioning Nature

You step outside in the spring and listen, look and inhale.  The spring peeper chorus fills the night air.  In the distance a lone coyote howls into the darkness.  Moths flit and flutter in beams of light.  The next morning chickadees send messages from tree to tree making a distinguishing melody.  Mist after the rain smells fresh.  Impressions left in mud, dirt, and sand announce wildlife visitors.

What if you took these sounds, sights, and odors and shifted how you listened, looked, and inhaled?  Wonder Walkers (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, March 30, 2021) written and illustrated by Micha Archer is an exuberant one-day journey outside.  Excited siblings share their musings and questions drawing readers into each and every moment of this glorious day celebrating our planet.

Wonder walk?


Those three spoken words open a door to inventive possibilities.  Looking at the sun, the girl asks, 

Is the sun the
world's light bulb?

From her question, what is your reply?  If the sun is indeed the world's light bulb, what or who turns it on?  Oh, there is much you can do with her first query.

Gazing across the expanse of a river, fog hovers above the water.  What can it be?  Running through a mountain meadow, the children imagine the mountains and forests as life partners.  What are they?  The boy's and girl's curiosity is building.

Tree trunks look as though they are stretching up to the sky, but what if they are stretching down from the sky?  Another thought occurs to the children as they rest and meander among the branches of an enormous tree.  Then, on the ground, running like the wind, they fantasize about dirt and roots.

From the forest, they find themselves on a sandy and rocky beach.  They peek inside a cave pondering.  The ocean and its shore offer two more reflections.  As the girl and boy walk toward home, the river, the wind, and the rain prompt more perceptions, until later, they watch the moon rise over the seascape in front of their home. 

To be sure, no matter how many times you read this book, you'll read it again.  Why, you ask?  Micha Archer welcomes us to take notice of the characters' questions, but also encourages us to fashion our own suppositions.  On a grander scale, perhaps, Micha Archer is wondering if we look at these things in nature differently, might we do the same with one another.  Once to pause and again to conclude, the girl and boy utter identical words, a bond and a nod to the title.  Here is another of their questions.

Are roots plant's toes?

Are you ready?  Let's join the children on the front, right, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  Let's run along the sand, climb the rocks, feel the saltiness of the breeze and warmth of the sun.  Let's listen to the waves crash on the shore.  Let's shout out loud in happiness.  

The rocks, sand, and ocean continue on the other side of the spine.  There we read an introductory sentence about this title.  There are praises and blurbs for Micha Archer's two previous books, Daniel's Good Day and Daniel Finds a Poem.

On the opening endpapers is a light, bright spring green to signify beginning.  On the closing endpapers is a deep teal symbolizing the end of the day.  On the initial title page, a full-page picture, we are shown a breathtaking collage of meadows, trees, ocean, and sun with fingers of fog reaching in from the right.  On the formal title page, a double-page visual, the children are relaxing on a textured emerald green sofa.  The girl is reading a book, and the boy is cuddling their sleeping cat resting on his stomach.  Above them are two separate large windows giving readers views of sand, sea, sun, and sky.  (I am curious about the artwork hanging on the wall on either side of the windows.)

These images rendered

in inks and collage, using tissue paper and patterned papers created with homemade stamps

by Micha Archer are brimming with harmonious texture and an inviting color palette.  They all span, with the exception of the final illustration, across two pages.  The panoramic landscapes are marvelous, taking you to specific places during particular times of the day.

One can only speculate on the hours spent making the materials and the meticulous care in planning and placing each individual piece to form a completed image.  Exquisite details require readers to pause at each page turn.  The children are highly animated as they explore.  Sometimes they are small in comparison to the vista in which they are placed.  Other times we are brought so close to their faces; only portions of them are shown.

I think I could stare for hours at one of my many favorite illustrations.  A wide band along the bottom is intricate layers in earth tones featuring a view underground of a myriad of roots and rocks of all sizes. Above this is a feast for readers' eyes in greens and blues, showcasing all types of flora.  There are splashes of reds, oranges, and yellows.  In the foreground are the children.  All we can see is the lower part of their bodies, their legs and feet as they race across the ground.  Their beautifully patterned clothing in blues and reds adds another element to this striking scene.

As you read Wonder Walkers written and illustrated by Micha Archer, silently or aloud, you stop at every page turn to consider each question and to notice every single item in each illustration.  This is a book to promote discussions, and to extend through writing, artwork, and research.  It inspires similar walks.  So, grab a notebook and pencil or a camera and go outside to see what you can see, hear what you can hear, and inhale what you can inhale.  What a beautiful world it is!  I highly recommend this title for all collections.

To learn more about Micha Archer and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At her website, you can view multiple interior images.  Micha Archer has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

From Them Comes Life

From their heights, the world spreads before us. (Even when we get stuck at the tip top and have to ask for help getting down.)  When a slight breeze blows, walking among rows of evergreens planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps is like strolling through whispers of angels, a gift from heaven.  Leaning against the trunk of a single tree can strengthen you; the tree lends you resolve and resilience.  Most of all trees hold memories.

With the passing of my sweet Xena, now almost six years ago, two kind-hearted author friends give me a tree with a metal label, Xena's Tree.  That tree and label have traveled with me in multiple moves.  It is now joined by five other trees, one for each year she has been gone.  I am so comforted by the sight of those trees when a dear author friend lost her beloved dog companion, I did the same for her.

Trees freely give to all around them, representing more than we can at first imagine.  BE A TREE! (Abrams Books for Young Readers, March 30, 2021) written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Felicita Sala is a lyrical declaration in words and art about the immeasurable worth of trees.  It explores the similarities between trees and humans, offering us a pathway to be our best selves.

Be a tree!

Stand tall.

Stretch your branches to the sun.

It would be wise for us to root ourselves, be grounded, as are trees.  Human spines and tree trunks both house integral elements necessary for sustaining life.  Can you think of your skin like bark?  I can.

Under the bark are systems upon systems functioning to further growth.  At each's center is a beginning beat.  At the top, the tree's crown, like our hats, gathers, filters, and protects.  What will your leaves do?  Together, the top, the bottom, and what hums in the middle, we and trees are not so different.

When you stand in a forest, you see all kinds of trees.  Together they work, speaking, sharing, and sustaining each other.  Together they help the air we breathe, the soil upon which we stand, and the high winds which howl.  Around the globe trees are home to a multitude of plants and animals.  Can you name some?

Did you know trees reach out to immigrant trees?  No tree regardless of its age or physical condition is ever alone.  Trees know helping other trees strengthens them and the forest as a whole.  Can we not do the same for our fellow humans?  

Every poetic line in this narrative takes readers to a tree.  The words penned by Maria Gianferrari mirror the attributes of a tree.  They are strong, deeply fixed, and all-encompassing in their reach.  Single sentences hold profound truths about trees.  In these truths she asks us to see ourselves in the same aspect.  Here is a sentence.

Beneath your bark
are layers,
such as sapwood,
carrying nutrients
to help you grow bigger
and taller;

and heartwood,
strong as bones
to support you.

When you open the dust jacket you find yourself either gasping or reminding yourself to breathe.  The image spans flap edge to flap edge.  The tree you see on the front, right, of the jacket spreads to the right edge and nearly across the entire back, left side.  The plentiful children with birds among them are both heartwarming and hopeful.  You can almost hear the chatter of the gathered girls and boys mingled with birdsong.  On the back, left, is a single white bird.  Two children, hand in hand, in the grass are watching it.  The grass, roots and communicative fungi end at the flap edges.  On the heavy matte-finished paper all the children and birds are vanished.  In a word, exquisite.

An interior image of a large ancient tree spreads across the book case.  A child in reading among the gigantic roots.  Another is climbing up a rope, as a third one rests a hand on the tree.  Two people are seated in a bench to the right of the tree with a large red balloon tied to the back.  Two birds rest in the branches of the tree.

The opening and closing endpapers are a botanist's delight.  In two shades of green, they feature twenty different leaves and three seeds.  Each one is carefully labeled.  Portions of these endpapers are repeated on the first and final page turns.  Prior to the title page, two children play on the sprawling large branch of a tree.  The boy awaits the girl climbing up a rope ladder.

A double-page image moves from left to right on a crisp white background for the title page.  In a series of five vignettes, we see a child plant a seed.  It grows, grows, grows, and becomes a tree, roots fanning out below the surface.

These illustrations by Felicita Sala rendered

with watercolor, gouache, and colored pencils

are bold but intricate two-page displays with every page turn.  A variety of trees are represented.  Perspectives shift and ask readers to pause, noticing each item contained in the picture.  The four-page gatefold is stunning in the variation between the previous two-page visual and what is revealed.  This is the goal toward which we must endeavor.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations has a wide trunk taking up half the page on either side of the gutter.  It only fills the top third of the image.  Climbing up the bark on the left side is a tiny snail.  On the right side a girl crouches next to a snail, her fingertip reaching to touch it.  For the bottom two-thirds of the picture, we see a vast network of roots and fungi.  Three animals are burrowing among the roots and dirt. 

This book, BE A TREE! written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Felicita Sala, presents the grandeur of trees and their vital place on our planet.  It invites us to learn what they can teach us.  At the close of the book is an Author's Note, Five Ways You Can Help Save Trees, Be A Forest: How You Can Help In Your Community, two pages dedicated to a graphic and textual Anatomy Of A Tree, Further Reading And Viewing and Websites.  You need to make sure you have a copy of this book on both your personal and professional bookshelves.  

To learn more about Maria Gianferrari and Felicita Sala and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Maria Gianferrari has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  Felicita Sala has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  This book is highlighted at Beagles and Books, Picture Book Builders, and Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  At Beagles and Books is a list of blog tour stops.  At each site you can view interior images.

Maria Gianferrari has climbed fig trees in Italy, stood under stately coastal redwoods and twisted Torrey pines, marveled at mitten-shaped sassafras leaves, colorful coral trees and sawtooth oak acorn nests.  She lives with her family, including dog, Maple, in a house encircled by trees.