Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

For Daughters. For Mothers.

The relationships between mothers and their children can be complicated.  The older you get, the more often you will do or say something and think "I've become my mother."  Sometimes, it is those little things which nearly drive you crazy, that you find yourself now doing.  Other times, their daily feats, you realize, are as close to superhero as mere mortals can get.  Or in the category of prophecy, those things they wished for you are a realty.  

In a word, mothers are a miracle.  They are your biggest and most constant cheerleaders.  Dreams for a Daughter (Atheneum Books For Young Readers, March 9, 2021) written by Carole Boston Weatherford with illustrations by Brian Pinkney are tender, but fierce commitments of an African American mother to her African American daughter. 

As I cradle you, look in your eyes,
the ancestors peer back at me.
Your gaze says softly,
I want to know everything.

I Promise to show you all that I can.  

So begins an enduring interlude between a mother and her daughter.  She sends out a prayer for her joyful embrace of life to continue and endure.  She watches as the love of her heart toddles away, happy in her ability to move on her own toward an unknown goal.

A first bike ride without training wheels is a jubilant celebration for both mother and daughter; one brave enough to go and the other brave enough to let her go.  A desire to know and understand is a trait to be valued and encouraged.  Going to school for the first time is a step toward expanding knowing and understanding.  Books champion needed narratives.

Shouts of encouragement will ring across any chosen playing field from this mother for her daughter.  May this child always be free to express and use talents, natural or earned.  Like the voices of mothers for generations, this mother wants more for her daughter than for those who came before her.

Though you are small in stature, your voice can speak volumes.  Trust in your instincts and turn away when necessary, to avoid danger.  In her final words to her beloved, the mother reminds her daughter of her constant presence, even if miles separate them.

The words written here by Carole Boston Weatherford lift up every reader's heart, but especially the hearts of those for whom they are written.  Whether read softly to oneself or aloud to an empty room or to a group, these words sing like hot chocolate warmth.  Each of the fourteen assurances builds on the other fashioning an unbreakable lifeline from mother to child.

Four times the mother makes observations about her daughter followed by the word I.  After I, we read what this mother will do for her daughter.  This technique is reversed for the next four sections.  For the final six portions, a blend is used by this wordsmith.  Here is a single beautiful passage.

When you learn to read,
you follow my finger and mouth each word.
I stroke your curly crown.

Books will carry you far
as you author your own story.

Sunshine and lightness radiate from the matching and open dust jacket and book case as complementary colors create patterns, flowing lines, and great affection.  When you look at the front, right, the bond between the mother and daughter is strong and true.  You can see it in their eyes and the way they hold each other.  On the dust jacket, the title text is in a pink foil hue and raised to the touch.

To the left of the spine, on the back, we are gifted with a peek at an image nearly identical to an interior illustration.  A sun, large and low to the horizon, with a compassionate gaze and slight smile, looks at the daughter.  She is a younger version of herself, standing on a hill, ready to face the world fortified by her mother's words.  Shades of yellow, orange, turquoise, and purple swirl and take shape.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a dusty lavender.  A smiling face of a daughter is framed in a starburst on the title page.  These illustrations 

rendered in watercolor, gouache, and India ink on Strathmore watercolor paper

place highly animated mothers and daughters within Brian Pinkney's remarkable brushes of color, alive with motion and emotion.  

Each portrait of a mother and their daughter is their love captured in a particular place and time.  As our eyes move from left to right across these double-page pictures, we might see a single moment as it happens or the depiction of a moment yet to be.  Some are more intimate than others, bringing us close to the duo and others present a more wide-angle perspective.

One of my many favorite illustrations features a mother and daughter on a picnic.  For this visual greens and yellows are the predominant colors.  Close to readers is the mother, mostly to the left of the gutter, seated on the blanket, her back to us.  A basket and drinking glass are on either side of her.  With her hands on her hips, she watches her darling daughter take first strong steps on her own, off on an adventure.  The child's arms are outstretched for balance.  She is in yellow but wears a pair of orange plaid overalls.  This is perfectly precious.

You will never tire of rereading this superb blend of loving language and charming, profound images found in Dreams for a Daughter by Carole Boston Weatherford with illustrations by Brian Pinkney.  This book speaks directly to African American mothers and their daughters but will find an audience with all mothers and their daughters.  I highly recommend you find a place for this title on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Carol Boston Weatherford and Brian Pinkney and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the link attached to their names.  Carol Boston Weatherford has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Brian Pinkney has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  

Not everyone can agree on their origin, but most can agree the "yo' mama" jokes have been spoken for decades, if not centuries.  As soon as everyone reads Your Mama (Versify, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 6, 2021) written by NoNieqa Ramos with illustrations by Jacqueline Alcantara, they will quickly discover these fiery, shout-out-loud words and vibrant, colorful images are a tribute to mothers for everything they are.  They stand large in our lives, knitting all threads together to form a thing of love we wear with us wherever we go.

all frosting, powdered sugar, and pastries.

Leaves love notes in your almuerzo, homemade.
She's the cinnamon to your tembleque,
the tres leches to your cake.

Each of the ten bannered accolades bring readers into an exuberant scene of multiple sides of motherhood.  Her physical strength in the face of adversity is nearly legendary, but her style in clothing and accessories has heads turning in admiration.  When she could scold, she applauds your ingenuity.

There are times, though, when your mama thinks she might be losing her mind.  Is there such a thing as quiet time alone?  When it comes to learning, this mother gets an A++ and the library is her second home.  If you need answers, she finds them.

This has you wondering how she knows so much, even what you might be thinking.  She gets you better than anyone else.  Her sense of humor is off the charts, entertaining everyone in her company.  You will see her marching for justice and voicing her concerns with her votes.  

Wealth for this mother is not found in banks or possessions.  She is rich with connections in her neighborhood.  Familia is her greatest treasure; you are the largest gem in her world.  What should you do for your mama?  You move to her rhythm, an inseparable duo, cloaked in love.

It's a given readers and listeners alike will be unable to sit still reading the enchanting words penned by NoNieqa Ramos.  Her blend of Spanish and English supply us with a symphony of rhythm.  Each rhyming portion invites us to read it aloud.  We want to join this mother and this daughter in the daily jubilee of their lives.  There is an interlude, a pause of words, between bannered accolades, but the beat is still sweet.  Here is a portion of a cadenced passage.

she could have her own clothing line.

The way she walks into a room---
she's an ad for
fancy perfume.

The splash of flowers, leaves and vines on the wash of denim blue, left to right, on the open and matching dust jacket and book case, opens your mind and heart to the joy waiting for you inside this book.  Look at the mother and her daughter on the front, right.  Their unbridled expression of dance is contagious.  The birds holding the banner is your introduction to the use of banners throughout the book.  It is an announcement.

The opening and closing endpapers glow in golden yellow.  On the title page two hearts rimmed in gold, flowers, and several elements from interior illustrations make a collage on which the mother and daughter are placed.  With a page turn we are drawn into the narrative by the first banner of many woven around a single item or group of items.  For example, the first banner loops around a spectacular many layered cake.  Strawberries, flowers, a spatula, a jar of cinnamon sticks, a whisk, a bag of spilled flour, and a slice of cake present a marvelous array.  Opposite this is the mother and daughter engaged in an activity.

These images rendered

using markers, pastels, Procreate, and Adobe Photoshop

by Jacqueline Alcantara nearly jump off the pages.  Most of them span two pages with the exception of several full-page pictures, and two smaller illustrations on a single page.  The illustrations flow, page turn to page turn, but you could take any one and frame it for the moments it expresses.

The facial features and body postures of the mother and daughter burst with life.  Each time you look at a picture, you will discover a new detail.  Careful readers will see insertions of humor such as the cat lifting its paw over the spinning record on the turntable.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for YOUR MAMA SO STRONG.  It references her strength to that of a marine.  It mentions her carrying groceries up flights of stairs and carrying you on her back to the emergency room when you are both sick.  On the left, a large anchor is wrapped in the banner with a night cityscape in the background.  Climbing up the top of the anchor is the child with the mother in front of her, laden with bags.  On the right, a hospital building looms large.  Coming from the lighted entrance in winter is the mother carrying her child.  Both are wearing winter clothing.  The mother has on her black boots covered in red roses.  The little girl grasps her favorite stuffed toy bunny.

You will be ready to read this book again as soon as you finish it.  The fabulous mix of words and artwork found in Your Mama written by NoNieqa Ramos with illustrations by Jacqueline Alcantara invites, no begs, you to read it repeatedly because this book is bliss.  Be ready to hear a chorus of read it again!  I know you will want a copy for both your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about both NoNieqa Ramos and Jacqueline Alcantara and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the link attached to their names.  NoNieqa Ramos has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Jacqueline Alcantara has accounts on Behance, Instagram, SoundCloud, and Twitter.  The cover reveal was showcased at Latinxs in Kid Lit.  At the publisher's website is a book trailer hosted by Kwame Alexander.

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