I am moving in fifteen days, if all goes well. It is the fifth move in six years. You would think by now, I would be a professional packer and unpacker, but this move is different. In my new home, I am losing about 330 square feet and a basement. Like this house on a hill, I will no longer have fields and woods on two sides. My new home is in an older, established neighborhood. Lake Michigan, Round Lake, Lake Charlevoix, and downtown Charlevoix are within walking distance.
Quote of the Month
When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin
Thursday, May 27, 2021
With this smaller home, there have been some tough decisions in the past few weeks. Many family slides (1,500) and photographs were sorted. The slide projector and all the carousels were donated. All my teaching materials from thirty-four years of being a teacher librarian (7 boxes) were shipped to another teacher librarian. There have been multiple trips to places accepting donations. Furniture is being given to friends and neighbors. Boxes and boxes of books are off to new homes. There will still be about seventy-five boxes of books staying with me. My new dining room will be a library with a dining room table in it.
With all the previous moves, there were gaps in my blog posts, a sort of hit-or-miss. This time I have decided to take an official break in fairness to my readers and those authors and illustrators whose work I highlight. Writing about books on this blog is a way for me to keep myself immersed in the wonderful, imaginative and informative world of children's literature. It is a way to honor all the hard work of authors and illustrators who have given me riches beyond measure.
I had hoped to finish out this week with blog posts, but I am woefully behind in my packing. Daily decisions are taking more time than I imagined. I already have many books to talk about, but they will have to wait. That is the beauty of books, the stories are always there ready to be shared.
My posts will resume on July 6, 2021. June is already promising to have some amazing book releases. I hope you, my faithful readers, will return to read about these new treasures.
Posted by Xena's Mom at 8:01 AM
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
Objectives vary from individual to individual. They can be from second to second or over the course of decades. Some goals are more easily reached than others. There is a plan in place. Enough time is available to complete said plan. Other aims happen so quickly, instinct takes over.
Sometimes, initially, there is no objective, goal, or aim, but an opportunity presents itself. This opportunity cannot be ignored. It turns into a deep desire. In The Thingity-Jig (Peachtree Publishing Company, April 1, 2021) written by Kathleen Doherty with illustrations by Kristyna Litten, a nighttime escapade reveals an eager yearning. This leads to the construction of a trio of contraptions.
One night, under the light of a silvery
moon, all of Bear's friends were deep
But Bear wasn't sleepy---he wanted to play.
Bear left the woods for people town. He explored until he found a Thingity-Jig. (People called it a sofa.) He loved the way it responded to his every move. He could not wait to tell his woodland friends.
He rushed back to them. Rabbit, Fox, and Raccoon did not want to help him bring it to the woods. They wanted to sleep. Bear, being a wide-awake bear, knew he was on his own.
Back in people town, Bear assessed the situation, and from items free for the taking, he built a unique vehicle. This would carry the Thingity-Jig, but now he had another problem. How would he get the Thingity-Jig on his mode of transportation? A visit back to the woods resulted in the same response from his friends.
So, Bear assembled another one-of-a-kind gizmo. At last, the Thingity-Jig was homeward bound. You won't believe what happened! Of course, his friends did not want to be bothered. Another device was made. Hooray! As the sky lightened with a new day beginning, Rabbit, Fox, and Raccoon woke with a start at a loud thud. Guess who loved the Thingity-Jig as much as Bear? Guess who had to wait and wait and wait to play on the Thingity-Jig? Oh, Bear. Sweet dreams.
The word play created by author Kathleen Doherty is pure fun on every page. There are loads of single action verbs and delightful, descriptive adjectives. Alliteration is used to enhance the cadence. Repetition of words and phrases tie moments together. The conversational exchanges between Bear and his friends Rabbit, Fox, and Raccoon disclose their distinctive personalities. Here is a passage.
"Wake up! Wake up! I found something
fun---a bouncy, springy Thingity-Jig!"
Rabbit opened one eye.
"This Thingity-Jig will be sit-on-it,
hop-on-it, jump-on-it fun . . .," said Bear.
"And I need help bringing it home."
"Not now, Bear." Fox yawned.
"Wait till morning,"
But Bear wasn't sleepy---he
wanted to play. So he took
matters into his own paws.
(I am working with an F & G, but I have two copies arriving soon.)
When you open the dust jacket, you are greeted with Bear standing in a treasure trove found in an alley. Here items of no value to others are gifts to an inventive mind. On the front, do you see the many mice engaged in aerobic endeavors? Notice the spider hanging from the windowsill. It's a superb design choice to have the light from that window shine on Bear like a spotlight. The background on the front and the back is matte finished. All the other elements on the front and back are varnished, even the two little beetles on the back.
On the opening endpapers, Bear is running through his woods at night. A crescent moon hangs in a starry sky. Other than a few birds, all the other animals are tucked away for the night. There are indications of snores coming from some of their homes. This is a panoramic view of the woods, almost like a map. The colors are a deep muted blue and cream. On the closing endpapers, the setting is the same but . . . oh, my . . . everything else is different. It is the light of a new day. You will spend hours looking at this artwork. Bear started something marvelous.
With a page turn, we are at the verso and title pages. On these Bear is leaping through tree branches, bouncing off the e in The, and hanging from another tree branch. This creature is all about play.
These illustrations by Kristyna Litten were
rendered in pencil, ink textures, and digital.
They shift in size to showcase the narrative and its pacing. We move from a full-page picture to a spot image, to another full-page picture, a cluster of small visuals and then to a double-page illustration. These alterations in size also reinforce the dynamic character of Bear. Readers will enjoy pausing at each illustration to notice all the tiny elements in each scene. Careful readers will notice the sky changing from the newness of night to the darkness of night, to the brightening of dawn, sunrise, and near noon.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a full-page picture. We are looking at a sweeping perspective. It is as if we are on top of a roof in people town. The roof goes across the bottom of the page. Above the roof are buildings of all shapes and sizes with lights glowing in some of the windows. From the town, a hill rises. On the hill are trees as the woodlands come into view. About halfway up the hill is Bear peddling the Rolly-Rumpity. A lamp on the front of this vehicle lights his path. The moon is close to the hill. Stars are sprinkled in the sky. The hues of blue and purple are calming. The red of the sofa draws our eyes to Bear.
This book, The Thingity-Jig written by Kathleen Doherty with illustrations by Kristyna Litten, is certain to have readers smiling from beginning to end and hours, if not days, later. It is a joy to read silently. It is read-aloud gold and a STEAM gem. I highly recommend you place a copy on your personal and professional bookshelves.
To learn more about Kathleen Doherty and Kristyna Litten and their other work, please follow the link attached to their name to access informative websites. Kathleen Doherty has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Kristyna Litten has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the publisher's website there are interior pages guaranteed to make you smile, a teacher's guide and an interview with the author.
Thursday, May 20, 2021
The resilience of children is clearly tested when they move from all that is familiar to them. For many of them, the challenge is not in leaving a home, neighborhood, school, and friends. They have been uprooted and replanted in an entirely different country. They have to navigate through all that is new, finding a balance between what was and now is.
For these reasons, many new children in communities and schools are quiet. They are observing. They are trying to figure out their place in these circumstances. The Color Collector (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2021) written by Nicholas Solis with illustrations by Renia Metallinou is a beautiful portrait of bravery. One child has the courage to seek the truth. Another child has the courage to share their truth.
She was new.
She was quiet.
I think she was lonely.
That was the day I met Violet.
It began with a hello. It began with a smile. Each day the boy walked on one side of the street. Violet walked on the other side of the street. They lived close to each other.
One day this changed. Violet picked up a red piece of paper the wind blew to her. The boy watched her place it in her backpack. Violet saw him watching. She lifted her hand in a greeting.
The boy saw her picking up all kinds of things in all kinds of colors. Curiosity getting the better of him, the boy asked Violet what she did with those items. She wanted him to follow her. She took him to her home. They entered her room.
What he saw was stunning! She explained her creation in stories as he listened. Her sadness was less. Aloneness became togetherness. And on his way home, the boy found . . .
The simple declarative sentences spoken in the voice of the boy give this story touching authenticity. Though the writing of Nicholas Solis we are both bystanders and participants. Day by day a kind of suspense is built, a mystery grows until dialogue is introduced. We know something wonderful is going to happen. We are not prepared for the spectacular reveal, but we are shown the generous spirits of children. Here is a passage.
The day she picked something up.
The wind blew strong.
A red candy wrapper did somersaults.
It landed at her feet. It hugged her shoe.
The crisp white canvas on the open and matching dust jacket and book case is ideal for the depiction of a story focusing on color and its part in forming a friendship. On the front we are introduced to the narrator and the new girl, Violet. We sense her determination and his questioning. The design choice to have the title text shift in colors is fabulous.
To the left, on the back, in black and white Violet is walking home from school. The red wrapper floats by her. She bends to pick it up and it vanishes inside her backpack.
The opening and closing endpapers, the same, are a collage of collected bits of paper, trash, and natural objects. On the title page, the boy and Violet are walking together framed by the text. A red leaf swirls and loops top to bottom.
Each of the images is animated and richly detailed. On the first double-page picture the only color is the purple ties holding Violet's pigtails in place. Illustrator Renia Metallinou alternates between image sizes to follow the pacing of the story. The first double-page visual is followed by a full-page picture and three vertical panels on a single page.
Gradually, as Violet picks up items, the colors of those are added to the illustrations. Each subsequent picture is more colorful than the previous one. After we are as astonished as the boy with what he sees in her bedroom, both children are in full color. The final two double-page pictures are as warm and inviting as the newly formed companionship.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a full-page picture. The boy and Violet are standing in the open doorway to her bedroom. The doorway fills most of the picture except for a portion of the door on the right. We are close enough to them that all we see is the upper part of their bodies. It is the expressions on their faces readers will remember. One is of intense surprise and respect. The other is of joy in one's accomplishment.
This book, The Color Collector written by Nicholas Solis with illustrations by Renia Metallinou, is a wonderful symbol of the power of a single act of compassion. A friendship is formed. It also reminds us, we can never truly know someone until we understand their stories. I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.
To learn more about Nicholas Solis and Renia Metallinou and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names. Nicholas Solis has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Renia Metallinou has accounts on Behance, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr. This title is highlighted at Kathleen Temean Writing and Illustrating, Jena Benton Simply 7, Math Is Everywhere, and Write Away.
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
On our planet, there is no larger land mammal. It is said their ears are shaped like the continent on which they reside. With their many-muscled (tens of thousands) trunks, they can lift hundreds of pounds. Their leader is usually the oldest female; generations of knowledge passed from elder to elder in herds together for lifetimes. Their ability to communicate with miles separating them is astounding. Elephants, African elephants, are remarkable individuals.
One of their single greatest foes is humans. One of their fiercest protectors is other humans. The Elephants Come Home: A True Story of Seven Elephants, Two People, and One Extraordinary Friendship (Chronicle Books, May 18, 2021) written by Kim Tomsic with illustrations by Hadley Hooper is a tale of the interconnectedness of all living beings on our planet. It spotlights remembered kindness and deep affection.
This is Lawrence.
He loves animals.
This is Francoise.
She loves Lawrence.
This is Max.
Together the trio live at Thula Thula. There they have
a farmhouse, a garden, a swimming pool, and 11,000 acres of African bush, savanna, and forest.
The fenced-in area creates a refuge to an assortment of African animals. Hunting is strictly forbidden providing a peaceful existence for the inhabitants. Lawrence, Francoise, and Max dwell in consideration for all species residing there.
One day, a telephone call changes and challenges the way of life for Lawrence, Francoise, and Max. A woman asks Lawrence to house seven unhappy elephants at Thula Thula. If they cannot find sanctuary there, they will be shot. Lawrence loves animals. He replies in the affirmative. A boma with fencing is fashioned for them until they get acclimated.
After their arrival by trailer to Thula Thula, some observers believe the elephants are trouble. Lawrence believes they are nervous. That first night, they destroy the fencing and escape. Again, others believe they are trouble, even after they head to their new home. Lawrence disagrees. He promises their leader, Nana, he will stay with them day and night until they feel comfortable. And he does. He sings to them. He tells them stories. The elephants shift their sadness into happiness.
Surprisingly enough, Nana reaches through the fence one day and touches Lawrence's stomach with her trunk. A bond is forged. The elephants are released into the whole of Thula Thula, and Lawrence and Max go back to the farmhouse. The seven visit the farmhouse, the garden, the swimming pool, and astonishingly enough greet Lawrence when he returns home from trips. How do they know?
Years pass. The rhythms at Thula Thula are wonderfully similar. The elephants tend to now roam on the far edges of Thula Thula. Some years they visit. One day an overwhelming sadness descends on Francoise and Max. Lawrence is gone forever. The elephants know. Their response to this knowing is an expression of great love.
As you read the words written by Kim Tomsic, your world fades away. You are in Africa. You are at Thula Thula with Lawrence, Francoise, Max and the elephants.
With introductory, explanatory sentences we meet the people and animals living at Thula Thula. This cadence established with specific words is repeated after the central portion of the story, the arrival of the elephants and their deepening relationship with Lawrence, Francoise, and Max. This "bookending" gives readers a true sense of the elephants' acceptance of Thula Thula as their home. It also serves to widen the definition of home as not only a place but as people. Readers are drawn more completely into the narrative by distinct details and dialogue. Here is a passage.
Soon the elephants' cranky
behavior changes to
ear flopping, head
waggling, and trumpeting.
"What does it mean?"
"They're HAPPY," Lawrence says.
The scene on the open and matching dust jacket and book case, not only allows us to meet Lawrence and the elephants, but we are given a preview of the marvelous artwork and color palette used throughout this book. In many of the illustrations, the hues of red and orange indicate the African habitats and climate. On the front Lawrence is walking and chatting with Nana. Across and left of the spine the landscape continues. The additional six elephants are featured walking behind and along with Lawrence and Nana.
In lush shades of orange and red with details etched in black, the opening and closing endpapers present two different scenes along a river. The trees and birds on the shore are reflected in the water like a watercolor wash. In both sets of endpapers, another single bird appears in the water.
These illustrations by Hadley Hooper were rendered
using watercolor, ink, printmaking, and then finished in Photoshop.
There are dramatic double-page pictures, panoramic and bird's eye points of view, full-page images bringing us closer to the activities, horizontal panels of three on two pages, mixed panel sizes to depict things happening at the same time, and a group of three on one page to portray multiple circumstances. Readers will pause at every page turn to enjoy all the details.
Color choices throughout this book denote time of day and emotional moods of the story. The dark greens and black inside the trailer with the elephants convey their curiosity and unease. The gray, brown, black, and white used in the scene where the elephants break out of the boma fence at night is full of outrage and freedom. More of the red and orange warmth comes into the pictures along with natural tones as the elephants decide Thula Thula is home.
One of my many, many favorite pictures is a single-page image. It is for the words above noted. It is a single setting but divided by what Lawrence is doing on the top half and what the elephants are doing on the bottom half. It is night. A crescent moon hangs in the upper right-hand corner above a tree-filled landscape. A night bird sits on a branch on the left-side. Under the light of a lantern, seated on a rock, Lawrence reads aloud from a book. The elephants rest in a group, a few raise their trunks in happiness, and others snack.
As the words and artwork are given to readers, page by page, each one finds themselves entirely absorbed by this tale of wondrous creatures. The Elephants Come Home: A True Story of Seven Elephants, Two People, and One Extraordinary Friendship written by Kim Tomsic with illustrations by Hadley Hooper will find a permanent place in your hearts. You can pair this title with Elephants Walk Together, How To Be An Elephant, The Elephant, If Elephants Disappeared and She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch for a fantastic story time or themed unit. I highly recommend this book for your professional and personal collections.
To learn more about Kim Tomsic and Hadley Hooper and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites. There are interior images from this book at Hadley Hooper's site. Kim Tomsic has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Hadley Hooper has accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Here is the link to the publisher's website.
All manner of people come and go in our lives daily. Some are there for the briefest of moments. Others are there for decades. They bring us laughter and sadness. They challenge us and support us. Some dislike us for no understandable reasons. Others, most if we are fortunate, shower us with warmth and love.
We know at an early age; everything is better together. The positive is multiplied and the negative is halved. If it were possible to hold sheer happiness in our hands whenever we desire, then More Than Sunny (Abrams Books for Young Readers, May 11, 2021) written and illustrated by Shelley Johannes is exactly the title necessary for this accomplishment. This debut picture book by a beloved author illustrator (Beatrice Zinker: Upside Down Thinker) is the quintessential representation of heightened joy through shared experiences.
An older sister and the family canine companion are eager to start their day. They wake up a younger brother, pulling him outside. The day is sunny, early and full of birdsong. As they move through their world, other descriptors follow them and the word sunny.
At the pond, it is muddy, and a family of ducks follows them. As the day and season warms, the sister and dog want to explore some more. It is humid. What's with all the bugs?! They are thankful for a gentle breeze and each new discovery at the pond, in the meadow, and off the dock.
When the rains come, all three still go outside, enjoying those creatures who love the rain the most. Back home, their wetness is absorbed by a loving parent. Spring and summer are wonderful memories as autumn leaves pile on the ground spiraling up and down in the winds. Geese formations point to the south against a darkening sky.
Heavy snowflakes fall on two extended tongues. Pleading leads to a walk in the snow. Silence reveals gentle wonders. Mom, children, and their dog play until late in the day when daddy arrives. More fun ensues. Four angels leave an impression in the snow. Now it is time to go. Stories and snuggles and
In a reversal, one final glowing glory is displayed.
A knock at a door always holds an element of surprise and anticipation until we realize who is there. This is a wonderful way to lead readers into the merriment of this story. Author Shelley Johannes skillfully uses punctuation, short phrases, and rhyming to supply readers with the best each season can offer. Here are two paired passages.
it's MUGGY . . .
AND BUZZY . . .
On the front and the back, right and left, of the open dust jacket, we meet the siblings and their dog as they embrace the day. You can see in both of the images; the brother is not initially as excited as his sister. She is the personification of sunshine; her arms shooting up and out like rays. On the front the brother, dog, sister, and text are varnished.
To the left, on the back, is one of the interior illustrations. The brother, still wearing his pajamas and his yellow boots, carries his toy stuffed turtle, as his sister, holding his hand, runs out the door of their house. Their dog leads them off the steps and outside into the yard. The red door of their house contrasts with the pale blue of the early morning sky.
On the book case a fabulous double-page picture is presented on either side of the spine. To the left is a close-up of the red door to their home. The brother and sister are leaning out the opening of the door, heads back and tongues stretched to capture the first snowflakes of winter.
These illustrations rendered
with pencil and mixed media on tracing paper and finished digitally
by artist Shelley Johannes are brimming with exuberance and pure delight. Their size and perspective are altered to accentuate the pacing. Every page turn yields more energy.
The details in the clothing, facial features, body postures and the settings welcome us into each visual. The sister is so thrilled she does not have her shoes tied. In the summer, the toys on the brother's rug in his bedroom reappear in real life. Do you see the ladybugs, butterflies, and caterpillar? On the stormy day, a fort is made for the dog from books and a checkerboard.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages. It shows the passage of time. On the left side, a dock ends on the left. On the right side, a dock ends on the right. This dock is positioned near the center of the two pages. Beneath the dock is green-blue water of a pond or lake. Above the dock is a blue sky filled with wispy clouds. On the left, the siblings wearing yellow life vests are leaning over the dock watching the water and their fishing lines which vanish under the surface. On the right, their poles with the lines reeled in rest on the dock. Now, sister and brother are on their backs, cloud gazing. In both scenes the sister is talking.
When you read More Than Sunny written and illustrated by Shelley Johannes, you will feel your spirit lighten. Hopefully for many readers, the activities of the sister and brother will be a reminder of shared exhilaration or future marvels to relish. I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections. It is one to gift often.
To learn more about Shelley Johannes and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. The book trailer can be viewed here, also. Shelley Johannes has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The cover reveal is hosted with an interview by Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, at his site, Watch. Connect. Read. Shelley Johannes is featured at author illustrator Jarrett Lerner's site. Travis Jonker, teacher librarian extraordinaire, chats with Shelley Johannes on his site 100 Scope Notes at School Library Journal. At the publisher's website there are some downloadable extra resources. There is also a video there for you to enjoy at the publisher's website.
Friday, May 14, 2021
On any given day, moment to moment, change is happening all around us. Some of the transformations are so subtle, it is the following day before we recognize them. Other shifts announce themselves in glorious splendor. Mindful observers realize variations, regardless of their size, are extraordinary.
When we are grounded in extraordinary, our sensory awareness expands. Is Was (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, May 4, 2021) written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman explores change in its many forms. Through her spare text and distinctive paintings, she introduces possibilities for rethinking how we perceive change.
the same sky that
but now is
Clouds have moved into the blue sky. Soon it is raining hard enough to satisfy a thirsty earth and its inhabitants. When it stops, the rain goes from is to was, becoming perfect pools.
A fox approaches as an energetic chipmunk, a yellow songbird, and a buzzing bee drink and fashion a melody. Quickly, everyone but the fox scatters. The pools of water are no longer for savoring or singing. Their previous purpose is abandoned.
As the story wraps around readers, there is a constant fluctuation as we follow each of the inhabitants moving in their world. There are new sounds. Light goes from bright to shadowed. Safety is replaced with danger. The world stills.
In that stillness, other things are apt to become abundantly clear. Reach out with all your senses and your marvelous mind. You will discover the undeniable beauty of our living planet.
Through impeccable pacing and word selection, author Deborah Freedman tells a story that speaks to every living individual's heart. She has taken the essence of life and placed it within the pages of this book. Two words, is and was, supply unbreakable connections bringing everything full circle. Here is another sentence.
Where singing was,
a buzz is
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .i z z z z z z z z z z z
You cannot simply give the open dust jacket one look. You need to pause and study every element, flap edge to flap edge. It pulses with quiet energy. From the left edge at the bottom the fox moves through the grass, past a group of stones. Overhead a raptor glides and gazes, looking for an opportunity. Near the stones on the branches of a shrub, a spider spins a web. To the left and under the web, the bee flies toward the fox. As rays of light and hues of blue transition near the spine, the outline of a child appears. Do you see? Watch as this child swings back and forth in the changing colors. The yellow songbird is near the leafy branches at the top and the chipmunk rests at the base of the trunk. The golden grasses extend to the right flap edge.
For the book case, left edge to right edge, the scene is the same except it is now night. Stars pepper the darker sky. The chipmunk is now on the left, on top of one of the stones. On the right side, right of the tree, a bat soars.
A pale mint green covers the opening and closing endpapers. On the initial title page, the yellow songbird flies past the text to the right. A single cloud frames the other side of the text. On the formal title page an increasingly cloudy sky makes a canvas. IS is on the left. WAS is on the right. You understand a transition is happening.
Each double-page image was
rendered in watercolor and pencil
by artist Deborah Freedman. Each one is more breathtaking than the previous one. The placement of words and letters in the illustrations is masterful. Sometimes we are close enough to the lovely beings to be as one with them. We understand their instincts and responses. In other settings, Deborah Freedman has us stand back, more as watchers, so we get an enlarged outlook. There are two wordless visuals. You have to remind yourself to breathe. When humans are presented near the end, the magic increases.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for two words.
We move closer to the stones on the left with the single stone in front of the spider web. The spider rests on that stone. The yellow songbird flies between the stones. The chipmunk is peeking from its hiding space. There is grass along the entire bottom. The right side is filled with the blossoming lower branches of the tree. Only the sharpest of eyes will see what is hidden among those blossoms.
Brilliant in concept and excellent in its achievement, this book Is Was written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman is one to be read often and shared widely. You will want to gift this repeatedly. You will want to have a copy on your professional and personal bookshelves. And you cannot read the dedication at the end without being deeply moved. (Okay, I got teary.) Thank you, Deborah Freedman for this book.
To learn more about Deborah Freedman and her other wondrous books, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Deborah Freedman has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view the entire dust jacket, book case and some interior images.
Thursday, May 13, 2021
The natural world rests in winter. A lot of children, when asked, can name at least one animal that sleeps during this season. Some of them can tell you why these animals pause in their daily activities. Others can name this sleep, calling it hibernation.
If you were to question this same group of children about another season when animals sleep, you will get silence and a group blank stare. In fact, if the group were people of all ages, the response would probably be similar. In the marvelous manner we have come to expect from collaborators, author Melissa Stewart and illustrator Sarah S. Brannen, their new release Summertime Sleepers: Animals That
Hibernate Estivate (Charlesbridge, April 27, 2021) does not disappoint. We willingly stroll through the wondrous information given to us in words and artwork; knowing we are now far better equipped to be the stewards we are meant to be for our planet.
YAWN, STRETCH, BLINK!
As warm weather spreads across the land,
hibernating animals spring to life.
At the same time, other animals seek cool spots so they can slumber. They are about to begin estivation. Of these animals. some select to sleep in large bunches. Alone, the mourning cloak butterfly nestles into a bark bed until it awakes in autumn.
Above ground on tree branches, hard-shelled creatures rest inside, closed off from the outside world. Below ground, special occupants of Christmas Island go deep into their residences. Did you know there are fish that burrow into mud when their water dries up in the summer?
Certain amphibians find refuge and prefer other animal hideaways. For animals that use other animals' homes, there are opposites that make their own place to rest. Long treks are taken by particular reptiles. They feast and then sleep, snuggled under forest floor bedding. Although there are animals that travel to sleep, there are others who stay exactly where they are.
A long rest is in order for many of these animals. For others, it is only a handful of days here and there. Each season dictates specific behaviors, until places and spaces are switched. Brrr . . . there's a chill in the air.
Author Melissa Stewart has our attention as soon as we read her first few sentences. Each paragraph is replete with facts delivered through clever alliteration. She employs a contrasting technique to present information, beginning on the left with a partial sentence and giving a more in-depth explanation on the right (or underneath) relative to one animal. That partial sentence is completed with a page turn and another explanation is supplied for a new creature. Here is one example.
. . . but others toss and turn before
catching their zzz's.
When the sizzling sun dries up the mangrove
killifish's watery home, the little fish jump
across land, flipping head-over-tail, until they
find a hollow log. Crammed inside this dark,
damp den, killifish wait for wetter days. If the
dry spell lasts long enough, the little fish slip
into a slumber until the rain returns.
In a large image, extending left to right, across the back and front of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, illustrator Sarah S. Brannen creates through curved lines, calm. The desert hedgehog curls in repose, saving energy. Its bungalow den is shaped from rocks in colors like its own.
On the opening and closing endpapers, the design uses space to first give us a title page and last to provide the dedications and publication information. On the opening endpapers, on the left, a naturalist's notebook is open to a drawing of a spotted turtle. Beneath the pages, the turtle moves through fallen leaves on a forest floor. Above a blue sky glistens. On the closing endpapers, four other pages from the notebook, about four other animals, are spread from the left, across the gutter, to the far-right edge.
Each double-page picture rendered
in watercolor on Arches bright white cold pressed paper
by Sarah S. Brannen, with the exception of the first and last illustrations, places the named animals in their natural habitat when they are resting or searching for a location. Within these large images are the page from the naturalist's notebook. These are line drawings in black on a cream canvas. They have the common and scientific names, the actual size, other positions, and place of residence.
In her illustrations, Sarah S. Brannen brings us close to the creatures, but usually includes a more panoramic view of the encompassing landscape. Convergent lady beetles are seen in large numbers inside curved leaves of a ground plant. Behind this plant are desert mountains dotted with spots of greenery. These two perspectives are important so we can be mindful observers and protectors.
One of my many favorite pictures is for the mourning cloak butterfly. We find ourselves standing in a woodland. Tree trunks and leafy boughs rise to the top of the pages. On one of the trunks to the left of the gutter, a butterfly, wings open, rests. On the right, we move close to a single trunk. There we see the top and underside of a mourning cloak butterfly's wings, just prior to it tucking away for sleep. On the far left is a page from the notebook. The actual size of the butterfly is represented as is a picture of it on an oak leaf. We are given both names and the place where it is seen, Broughton Nature Area, Marietta, Ohio, US.
Readers of all ages will be amazed to learn about these resilient creatures who rest to escape the rigors of the hottest season. Summertime Sleepers: Animals That
Hibernate Estivate written by Melissa Stewart with illustrations by Sarah S. Brannen is a book to place on both professional and personal bookshelves. The back matter includes More About Animals That Estivate, Estivation Versus Hibernation, Continue Your Exploration, Author's Note, Illustrator's Note, and Selected Sources.
To discover more about Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the link attached to their names. Melissa Stewart has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Sarah S. Brannen has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view an interior picture, download a teacher's guide, and a readers theater script. Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, hosted the book trailer premiere on his site, Watch. Connect. Read. Both creators are interviewed there. At Maria Marshall's Making Nature Fun, a group of nonfiction authors are interviewed. Melissa Stewart and this title are a part of that gathering. Melissa Stewart is interviewed about this title at First Draft to Final Book.
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
We are never more grateful for good health than when it is gone. We wake up day after day, not thinking about how wonderful it is to not have a fever, chills, aches, sniffles, or a cough. When any of those symptoms strike, we realize our mistake. We are doubly miserable.
We want to wave a magic wand and be better. We need help. And Then Came Hope (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, May 4, 2021) written and illustrated by Stephen Savage offers readers a look at the arrival of help in the form of a very special boat. This boat, like others who offer assistance to those who need it the most, supplies support, security, and the appropriate cure.
in the harbor
weren't feeling well.
Barge is the victim of a runaway spool of cable. Submarine comes to the surface feeling as though it might be at one of the Poles. Ferry has a high temperature. Aircraft Carrier has trouble breathing without coughing.
Even the smallest among these boats has problems. Dory, a tiny sailboat, has the sniffles. The smile she usually carries is gone. What are hurting boats supposed to do? They signal with a big
S O S.
A large gleaming white boat called Hope, with tugs on either side, glides into the harbor. In that moment when she announces her intentions to Barge, Submarine, Ferry, Aircraft Carrier and Dory, they know, with a sure sense of calm, they will be fine.
For each ailment, treatment is administered. Four boats sail from the harbor. One stays; the last to get care. Dory may be small, but she is given a reminder, a token, of the truest definition of hope.
The words in this book written by Stephen Savage indicate his knowledge of his intended audience. They also show his skill as a wordsmith, reaching out to a much broader readership through symbolism. The verbs (illnesses and healing) attached to each vessel are alliterative providing a rhythm to the narrative. Like the best of stories, the final two sentences give readers exactly what they need. Here is another sentence.
Then Submarine started shivering.
Complementary colors, golden yellow and pale orange and purple and lavender, fill the rays extending from Hope on the front and the back of the matching and open dust jacket and book case. The expression on Hope's face is one of compassion as she enters the harbor on the front. As she heads out to sea, on the back of the jacket and case, her stern to us, her look is one of happy determination.
On the first page of the opening endpapers and the last page of the closing endpapers is a pale blue sky with seven seagulls grouped together in flight. Stephen Savage makes use of every single page with the title page opposite the first set and an author's note opposite the closing set. On the title page, Hope is heading out to sea about to go under the large suspension bridge. Other smaller boats cross the ripples of blue-hued water. A large half sun sits on the horizon with a lighter blue and lavender sky around and above it.
Each double-page picture rendered
using digital techniques
invites readers into the story. We are first greeted with a panoramic scene, left to right, of the land, docks, and buildings, framing the harbor with the bridge and horizon small in the distance at the top of the image. As we are introduced to each of the vessels and their conditions, we are brought close to them. Details focusing on their problems heighten our connection to them. Shiver lines border Submarine, a thermometer registering heat is stuck in Ferry's mouth, and a sick Aircraft Carrier is hunched as it coughs into the water.
Even though the colors are bold in the first images, after Hope enters the harbor the shades shift. They are lighter and soothing, leaning toward healing and warmth. The illustration sizes change to draw our attention to the delivery of remedies. Readers will enjoy the facial features on all the boats.
One of my many favorite illustrations is a full-page picture. From the gutter on the left, Hope's bow (face) is enlarged, covering a bit more than half the page. She is smiling with her eyes closed as she comforts Submarine. Submarine is next to (in front of) her facing in the opposite direction. Submarine is also smiling with its eyes closed, now warm under the cover of a blanket. The water is a light blue. The background with a few buildings is several shades of dark peach. This is pure contentment.
This book, And Then Came Hope written and illustrated by Stephen Savage, is designed for younger readers, but will resonate with readers of all ages. It builds toward the five concluding words we all long to hear. The author's note at the end titled The Real S. S. Hope gives us a bit of history and refers us to the Project Hope website. You'll want to place this book in your professional collections, have a copy for your personal bookshelves, and share this often with others.
To learn more about Stephen Savage and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name. Stephen Savage has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At Penguin Random House you can view interior illustrations.
Author Stephen Savage and Project HOPE's Grace Duggan join us to discuss Stephen's new book and have a conversation about child wellness during the pandemic. "And Then Came Hope" was inspired by Project HOPE's own S. S. HOPE, the first peacetime hospital ship. Stay tuned afterward as Stephen and Grace respond to your questions and comments in the chat. Special thanks to Holiday House Books for Young People!
Thursday, May 6, 2021
When you least expect it, but need it the most, there it is. You might be cresting a hill on a walk with your dog and the sight you see takes your breath away. As you look through the different shades of spring budding on trees spread before you, in the distance hues of blue water like glass extend to an opposite shore. The shadows and light cast an enchanting spell on this moment. There is silence. Even your canine companion stills. What if you had not glanced that way?
This beauty on this day is a symbol and a sign. In What the World Could Make: A Story of Hope (Roaring Brook Press, May 4, 2021) written by Holly M. McGhee with illustrations by Pascal Lemaitre, two friends find the best life has to offer in the simple things given to them as they explore their world. Each season brings the duo closer together, bound in mutual affection.
The friends thought it a wonder---
winter white flakes a gift from the sky.
Side by side they sat, as flakes fell on them. They were amazed at the beauty. Bunny wanted the snow to never stop. Rabbit asked if Bunny was sure. Bunny really wanted the memory to last always. And Rabbit understood.
So, Rabbit made a snowball for Bunny. It was large and perfectly shaped like their tails. Now Bunny would have the memory of the winter white flakes always.
With the arrival of spring, Rabbit and Bunny were enticed by the colors and smells of lilacs. During this season it was Rabbit who wanted the memory to last always. As the most beloved kind of friends do for each other, Bunny made something extra special for Rabbit.
Summer offered a delectable, tangy and crisp treat. This present was presented by warmth, water, and tiny grains of ground rock and minerals. As the days shortened, the rich glow of autumn supplied them with the perfect place to do what bunnies and rabbits do best---
That's what Bunny and Rabbit did, wondering at the wonder this year made for them.
The words written by Holly M. McGhee in this story radiate from the pages, wrapping around you in a hug you want to last forever. The friendship between Bunny and Rabbit is precious and pure, shown by their willingness to make a shared moment never end for the other. Through the rhythmic sentences, repetition of phrases and conversations, we learn as they have. Hope, like their love, is where you choose to find it. It is provided each and every day and night of our lives. Here is a passage from the story.
"I know what you mean,"
said Bunny this time.
"The kind of forever where
you remember it even after
When you look at the front of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, you have questions. Two rabbits, bunnies, with their backs to us are facing the sky, future, rosy with the rising (or setting) sun. A field filled with possibilities stretches from them to the bottom of the jacket and cover. On the front of the jacket the text and friends are varnished.
To the left of the spine, the back, there is a crisp white canvas. Here, in the center, Bunny and Rabbit walk and splash, paw in paw, through shallow water. On either side of them is a treat they will soon taste.
On the opening and closing endpapers is a delicate mint green. On the title page, the image of Rabbit and Bunny sitting in the tree is placed between the text. All the illustrations were rendered with
pen and ink and Adobe Photoshop
by Pascal Lemaitre. One of the first things you notice about Pascal Lemaitre's artwork in this book is his superb use of space. For many of the scenes Bunny and Rabbit are small, surrounded by a natural setting. His fine lines and limited elements in each illustration convey a real sense of fascination. The image sizes range from double-page pictures to a collection of smaller visuals on two pages and back to double-page images before this is repeated. It is a pleasing flow enhancing the narrative. The splendor of each season is portrayed in wonderful color choices.
His intricate details add to the endearing quality of the friends and their experiences. Each of them is wearing colored scarfs with a white R on the red one for Rabbit and a white B on the green one for Bunny. The quality of emotion conveyed with their eyebrows, eyes, button noses and mouths leaves no doubt in readers' minds as to the state of their minds and hearts.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture. Across the top of the pages is a light purple wash with plump snowflakes falling in it. Below this is white. On the left side Rabbit is holding a large snowball and reaching toward Bunny. Falling snow is shown on Rabbit and the slightly shadowed ground around her. To the right of the gutter is Bunny. She stands looking at Rabbit, expectant and happy, her paws clasped in front of her. To the right of her is an evergreen tree laden with snow.
When you finish reading this book, What the World Could Make: A Story of Hope written by Holly M. McGhee with illustrations by Pascal Lemaitre, you find yourself smiling. In fact, you've been smiling the whole time and perhaps, you might be a bit teary by the tenderness expressed in words and artwork in this title. Is there ever a time when we don't need hope? Is there ever a time when we don't need to share the simple, freely given gifts of nature with someone who understands us completely? I can't imagine a collection, personal or professional, without a copy of this book.
To learn more about Holly M. McGhee and Pascal Lemaitre and their other work, please access their respective websites by following the link attached to their names. Holly M. McGhee has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Pascal Lemaitre has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This book is featured with an interview at Kathleen Temean's Writing and Illustrating. At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrations.
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Our view of the world, at a personal, local, state, national, and global level, is determined by more than one thing. We are shaped by the people who are our family, our closest friends, our colleagues and even those who wish us harm. We respond to small and large events and those things which register in our minds subconsciously. As whole people, we are comprised of many parts and their particular influences.
When we look back at our lives, we can see this is true. When we are presented with the facts of prominent people's lives, we understand why they took the direction they did. The People's Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought For Justice With Art (Abrams Books for Young Readers, April 20, 2021) written by Cynthia Levinson with pictures by Evan Turk is a luminous exploration in words and art of a man who urged others through his creativity to look around and to make what they saw wrong, right.
"The first thing I can remember," Ben said, "I drew."
As a young boy Ben lived in a village in Lithuania. He drew what he saw; his parents and grandfather making their own kind of art. Paper was a rarity, so Ben would draw in the margins of Bible story books. Ben was known for speaking his mind in the classroom.
When he was very young, his father was taken from their home to Siberia. His father managed to escape to America, asking his family to come there, too. Ben was only eight. He, his mother and younger siblings made the journey leaving his grandfather behind. Already in his young life, change was tarnished with sadness.
Five people in a two-room apartment in a crowded building in a crowded city was difficult, as was the new language, and bullies at school. Guess what made the bullies stop their taunting? Several teachers noticed Ben's artistic skills and offered encouragement. At fourteen his dreams of finishing school and becoming an artist were dashed. His father lost his job, forcing Ben to quit school and go to work. Fourteen.
As years passed Ben perfected one form of art during the day and studied at art school at night. The problem was he wanted to paint people and tell their stories. He left America, traveling to Europe and Africa, finding what would become his signature style. His first outstanding work was twenty-three pictures telling the story of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.
His depictions of people and injustice were so effective, he was hired in 1935 and again in 1937 by the United States government. But it was not always smooth for Ben. There were others who thought his artwork was anti-American. Ben persevered, bringing inequality into the light. He was and is remembered as a champion for those whose voices needed to be heard. (The final three sentences and accompanying double-page image are a breathtaking portrait of a life lived to its fullest, a life lived in the service of others and those yet to be born.)
Even without the extensive back matter, readers are well-aware of the meticulous research employed by author Cynthia Levinson in the writing of this book. Carefully selected and specific information with the insertion of quotations form, piece by piece, a powerful explanation of this man.
Cynthia Levinson also chooses the right words to not only inform, but to give readers a very real sense of place, time, and emotional impact. It is as if we are walking next to Ben Shahn. Here is a passage.
Cynthia Levinson also chooses the right words to not only inform, but to give readers a very real sense of place, time, and emotional impact. It is as if we are walking next to Ben Shahn. Here is a passage.
Ben didn't know yet how to draw his outrage. But, feeling his father's boldness
inside himself, he marched up to the sentry at the end of the street and shouted,
"Down with the Czar!"
The soldier chased after him, but Ben escaped.
(Ben was four. This was after his father was taken to Siberia.)
There is strength in the double-page artwork shown on the open dust jacket. The white doves, a sign of peace amid the pastel background on both sides of the spine, are significant. On the right, front, Ben and the text are varnished drawing our eyes to him. To the left, on the back, there is a childlike depiction of Ben's family, his grandfather, parents, and younger siblings done in black. The doves fan out around them.
For the book case, artist Evan Turk has used the space as a single piece of paper. Its texture is like whitewash on brown paper. On the left side, one of Ben's hands holds the paper in place. On the right side, his other hand, grasping a large pencil, is completing a self-portrait. Across the top of the left side and continuing to the right of the spine is the outline of a dove in flight. (This is also a near replica of the first image in the book.)
The opening and closing endpapers are covered in the same color seen on Ben's shirt on the dust jacket. The initial title page uses the same font as shown on the dust jacket, stating the first three-word title. On the formal title page, between the text, Ben's hands are releasing the dove so it can fly. This is done in black outline drawings.
The illustrations for this book were made with gouache, acrylic, pencil, chalk, and linoleum block prints.
All of the pictures, double-page pictures with four full-page images, are full of emotion. They are bold in color, composition, and their lines. You can feel the passion which fueled this man and his work. You know of child Ben's pride in his parent's and grandfather's workmanship. In this visual, Ben is off to the side with a book. With a page turn, Ben and the book are enlarged so we can see him drawing in the margins. The heartbreak at leaving his grandfather is a single page showing the grandfather's hand clasping little Ben's hand. They don't want to break this connection. But this is followed by a wordless double-page, three panel depiction of the family's arrival in New York, going through Ellis Island with other immigrants, and embracing a waiting father.
One of my many, many favorite pictures is a double-page image. It seems to be designed like an open book with the left page smaller in the lower, left hand corner and enlarging as it spreads to and across the gutter filling the entire right side. Above where the left page begins is black space for the white text. In that lower, left-hand corner is Ben painting a series of portraits, first in black outlines. As faces, eyes, hands, and certain circumstances are collaged together, we see a breadth of people forgotten and needing someone to speak for them. Ben does this through his art. The rich colors accent each individual element.
One word comes to mind after every reading of this book, gratitude. There is gratitude for people like Ben Shahn. There is gratitude for people like author Cynthia Levinson and illustrator Evan Turk for making an exquisite book titled The People's Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought For Justice With Art. At the close of the book are an author's note, an illustrator's note, a timeline with dual columns (Snapshots of Ben Shahn's Life and The Bigger Picture), a selected bibliography including books, personal interviews, site visits, and websites and source notes. I highly recommend you read this title and place a copy in your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about Cynthia Levinson and Evan Turk and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites. Cynthia Levinson has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Evan Turk has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At Evan's website there are interior images in addition to those available at the publisher's website. Cynthia Levinson and Evan Turk are interviewed at The Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production about this title. Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, interviews Cynthia Levinson for the cover reveal on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
When we wish for something, whether aloud or in the deepest parts of our hearts, it is sent out into the universe. Our wish signifies our belief in hope. It is hope which supplies us with strength. This strength allows us to move forward with confidence.
Anyone who leaves behind all they have known does so with a firm acceptance in the power of wishing. Wishes (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., May 4, 2021) written by Muon Thi Van with illustrations by Victo Ngai is a moving testament to a family's affirmation of hope. The spare melodic text and remarkable images will leave a mark on each reader's soul. They inspires gratitude and compassion at their deepest levels.
The night wished it was quieter.
As a family prepares to leave their home and beloved relatives behind, a wish is made by each of the many elements in their journey they are unable to control. These aspects reveal their desire to envelope this family (and others) in courage. Eleven voices proclaim their wishes until the child is about to reveal her own deepest desire.
The family can only take that which they can carry. A bag yearns to be more than it is. As the night wished for quiet, light longs for a stronger glow.
Have you ever wanted time to stop? A clock makes a similar request. As the family walks toward the vessel carrying them across the sea, more thoughts are sent out to surround them. The sea and sun make wishes, too.
As their perils continue, a final call is fervently expressed. After those moments, the child starts to speak but then stops. She stops because sometimes the universe grants our wishes before we disclose them. That is the splendor of hope fulfilled.
In twelve and one partial sentences, a powerful story is portrayed to readers by Muon Thi Van. Her use of third person in most of this tale creates a lasting memory for us. It causes us to look at our own life happenings and circumstances differently. The experience of this family is the experience of many families, however far they go and wherever they go. We feel this keenly and distinctly. Here is one more sentence.
The boat wished it was bigger.
The tranquil sea and starry sky we see on the front, right, of the open dust jacket is only a portion of the scene, which is spread over the spine and the back, flap edge to flap edge. It is a breathtaking symbol of wishes, continuing across sea and sky as far as the eye can see. Notice how the other people in the boat are given specific colors and face away from us or are looking down. The child looks at us, eyes open in anticipation. (I wish I knew what the tiny element to the left of the boar means. It appears throughout the book. A signature?) The text is varnished.
There is an intense and eloquent display on the book case. On a golden background are eight different faces, faces of refugees and immigrants. On the far left and far right, the faces are larger and looking forward. As the faces move toward the gutter they turn inward and are smaller in size. These children represent children from around the globe.
On the opening endpapers waves of green, yellow and black depict the journey across the sea. On the closing endpapers reds, yellows, oranges, and a few streaks of green in large brush strokes can indicate many things. Do they represent a calm sea at the beginning or end of a day? Do they indicate wishes, hopes or desires answered? Do they show us a new home is found?
On the verso and title pages, a double-page picture shows the little girl getting out of her bed. Each double-page image created by Victo Ngai serves to provide emotional context through the color palette, texture, lines, and perspective. In several of the illustrations before they go, the little girl is hugging a black dog she will probably not see again. The tears streaming down an older man's (grandfather's) face as he embraces the two older children (his grandchildren) is heartbreaking. When we look down upon the people in the boat as the sea rages around them, we wish, yes wish, we could lift them to safety.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations shows the inside of the home as the family is about to depart. To the left of the gutter, the mother stands in the doorway facing inside. She carries the infant in front of her in a wrap. About her feet are bags to carry and a large container for water. The black dog has its front paws on her body. She has one of her hands over her mouth. To the right of the gutter, closer to us is the elder man hugging the children as tears pool in his eyes. The children are crying as they hug him back. Can you imagine the bravery it takes each one of these beings to face an unknown future?
This book, Wishes written by Muon Thi Van with illustrations by Victo Ngai, will break hearts and heal them again. It is a story often told around the world every day. It is extraordinary in its excellence. There are an author's note and an illustrator's note at the end. This book has my highest recommendation for a place in your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about Muon Thi Van and Victo Ngai and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites. Muon Thi Van has an account on Twitter. Victo Ngai has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. At Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read., the cover is revealed along with an interview with both creators.