We are less than two weeks away from mid-summer. Sometimes it seems as if we live a lifetime in a season. So much happens, it is hard to wrap our minds around all the changes. The summer of 2021 is such a season.
A portion of the landscaping I've been giving TLC at my new home
On a global level, national, and local level, we are seeing unprecedented records set. Our precious planet is in peril due to climate change. Hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID are down thanks to vaccinations. People are able to spend time with family and friends and take trips about which they've been dreaming. And the wife of a prominent figure in the children's literature community just successfully completed a triathlon. We celebrate the good, the light, to fight back against the darkness and the challenges it brings.
To say the move mid-June was smooth would be an understatement. That day was one of the hottest and most humid we've had. Stocking up on plenty of drinks for the movers helped but they were un-prepared for their task. Two of them, stalwart souls, were new on the job for my move. This is not a professional moving company, but they worked hard. As fate would have it, one of the trucks died. What would have been a day job turned into a two-day job. Most of my things were moved on a very long Friday. The rest were moved the following Monday. I was on my feet from 4:30 am to 12:30am Saturday, making multiple trips in my car with precious cargo.
Prior to purchasing this new home in Charlevoix, I knew there were upgrades necessary. Waiting three weeks for a handyman/contractor to start on those upgrades was a test of patience. To date I am only unpacked in my kitchen and living room, both sanctuaries. My garage is filled to the brim with furniture. My dining room, wall to wall, is stacked with boxes of books. Home improvements are a tricky thing sometimes. What starts out as a simple project expands. Removal of carpeting, baseboards, vent covers, and fixed objects like vanities disclose a whole host of new obstacles. Hard rains revealed the current gutters needed to be replaced without delay. Despite certain roadblocks, gratitude is foremost in my mind.
Then, last week, I started to feel ill. Did I push myself too much in the landscaping and gardening? Was it all the pollen? Was it all the dust inside the house? By the end of last week, I was down. You know you are sick when you don't even want to read. (It has not helped that I refuse to give up my walks with Mulan every day, rain or shine.) As a fully vaccinated person, I was confident the percentage of being a break-through case was slim. (I do still wear a mask when shopping inside and I use disinfectant wipes when returning to my car.) How did I get sick? Then I read this article, Why Everyone Has The Worst Summer Cold Ever, in The New York Times. I encourage you all to read it.
Julio Iglesias rose bush I recently planted
This week will be one of rest and recuperation. Be vigilant my friends. Take good care of yourselves so we can all live this one wild and precious life (Mary Oliver) together. I will be back blogging next week. Thank you all for your continued support.
Perspective and point of view shape more than we are aware. Numerous times student discussions lead to a whole new approach to a lesson. These students present a thought, or an idea previously not considered. It is refreshing and mind-blowing. What's not to love about that?! It is apparent we need to continuously and consciously alter how we see things, the grandest landscapes, and the tiniest elements in those landscapes.
Early this year a cast of characters drove into the children's literature realm. Road Trip! A Whiskers Hollow Adventure (Candlewick Press, February 9, 2021) written and illustrated by Steve Light takes us into a tiny community within a woodland world. Four friends travel toward a desired necessity. Points along their path disclose more than destinations.
It was a beautiful day in Whiskers Hollow,
more beautiful than a hubcap shining in the sun.
Bear rambles down the road in his trusty truck. Usually a good driver, Bear crashes into an acorn resting on the middle of the branch. Now, he needs a new headlight.
For this, Bear races toward Rabbit's house. He asks his help in finding a new headlight. Rabbit would rather eat, regardless of the time of day. Bear assures him a snack is in his future.
Bear and Rabbit speed to Mouse's house. Bear requests Mouse's assistance. Mouse is a tad bit anxious. He agrees to go, bringing his tried and true first-aid kit.
When they arrive at Donkey's house, he is ready to go. Donkey, a perpetual optimist, leads the way on his scooter. He knows how to find Elephant's Old Junk Tree.
Nothing stops the foursome, even when they reach Elephant and his tree full of treasures, discovering there is no headlight for Bear's truck. As long as they are there and together, they have fun. An unexpected slip, a muddy plunge, and a watery solution are revealing. Sometimes when looking for one thing, you are reminded of something else just as essential.
With four words, nearly as powerful as once upon a time, at the end of his third sentence, author Steve Light, opens our minds and hearts to the approach of a charming storytelling event. Declarative sentences and equally straightforward dialogue, welcome us into the story of these four friends. Repetitive phrases link phases of the narrative together fashioning a comfortable cadence. In these companionable conversations, much is shown to us about the personalities of Bear, Rabbit, Mouse, and Donkey. Here is a passage.
The three friends arrived at Donkey's place.
"Let's go---road trip!" said Bear. "I need a new light for my old truck.
Can you help us find the way to Elephant's Old Junk Tree?"
Donkey knew the way because Donkey loved junk.
"Follow me friends!"
When you open the dust jacket, one of the first things you notice is the image spans from left to right with a break for the spine placement. On the back, left, a large gray tree trunk is the canvas for portraits of the four friends, introducing them to readers. On the branch which extends into the center of the right side hangs a sign. This sign offers pictorial directions to Elephant's Junk Tree. Two tiny crickets are seated on the top corners of the ISBN. One is reading.
On the front, the four are driving with haste to find a replacement headlight for Bear's trusty truck. They all lean into this journey, following Donkey. Notice the body posture of Donkey filled with calm confidence. It is here we come to understand how small Whiskers Hollow and its inhabitants are.
On the book case, illustrator Steve Light presents a series of roadways tree to tree, tree branch to tree branch. They pass by windows and doors in multiple homes. There are stoplights, tow trucks, and vehicles of all shapes and sizes. You will notice a large portion of activity revolves around the removal of the acorn responsible for Bear's crash.
On the opening and closing endpapers is a muted spring green. Carefully labeled and drawn with intricate detail is a map of Whiskers Hollow in black. All these sites hold infinite possibilities for future excursions.
With a page turn, a double-page image shows us on the left a cutaway of the interior of Bear's Den. Above it a tree branch stretches to the far right. Bear drives with quickness on that branch on the title page. In the O of Road an acorn is shown. An acorn is used for the dot on the exclamation point.
in pen and ink and gouache
the illustrations, ranging in size and perspective, are a study in the art of exquisite elements. Fine lines take us deep into Whiskers Hollow. We leave our world behind, shrinking to miniature. Each page turn is an invitation to pause and study the image(s) before us.
One of my many favorite pictures is a single-page illustration. It is framed with wide white space and a thin black line. The color palette is spare. There are hints of blue, yellow, and brown, black and white. The four friends are sitting together on an enormous pile of junk. They are enjoying snacks, beverages, and each other. It is a scene of peace in the presence of those who love you just as you are.
Whether read with a large group or one on one, this book, Road Trip! A Whiskers Hollow Adventure written and illustrated by Steve Light is an precious possession to be savored repeatedly. Readers will wish they could step into this marvelous world and enjoy all it offers along with the four friends, Bear, Rabbit, Mouse, and Donkey. You'll want to add a copy of this gem to your personal and professional collections.
Instead of shifting to a tiny world within our world, a small creature decides to collect everyday human items. To her, what we take for granted is a gift. Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter (Candlewick Press, July 6, 2021) written by Jamie Michalak with illustrations by Kelly Murphy is certain to have you looking at your surroundings with new eyes. You might decide to start your own assortment of special objects.
IN THE GREAT, BIG CITY,
in the great, big museum,
a clock tick-tocks past midnight.
Doors are locked.
Guards keep watch.
All is still, until . . .
From the shadows, an individual moves. It's a mouse. Her name is Dakota Crumb. She is a hunter of treasures. Tonight, she carries a map. Tonight, is the night she will locate with courage a
famous priceless treasure.
She needs to carefully move past ancient warriors. Wait a minute! Someone has left a remarkable painting (stamp) which she adds to her bag. In a room filled with gigantic beings from lore, she spies another forgotten figure (It looks familiar.)
Past a caretaker, intrepid Dakota moves, map in paws. In the Egypt room, a wicked cat is seated, guarding all the ancient articles. Behold! There is the treasure of all treasures, exactly where it is supposed to be. (It tastes like grapes.)
As a new day dawns, silent paws take this gatherer home. Does she sleep? No, she does not. Today is special. To her friends, by day, she is Miss Crumb, proprietor of Mousehole Museum. As the great big city sleeps, by night she is a hunter of the greatest gifts left behind.
With each page turn readers are more attached to this character and her exploits. Author Jamie Michalak uses simple sentences for maximum results, creating a mysterious pacing. Alliteration, rhyming and sound effects add to the suspense. Verb choices elevate the nighttime atmosphere. Here is a passage.
Dakota escapes by a whisker.
Heave ho! Into Dakota's sack it goes!
Tick-tock goes the clock.
But where's the treasure?
Dakota checks her map and travels on.
Dakota Crumb's wide-eyed look on both the front and back of the open and matching dust jacket and book case gives us a clue to her inquisitive and persistent nature. Standing on the edge of a framed human masterpiece, she is ready to swing into action, looking to make sure it is safe. The graduated color of the title text heightens the tension. It partners with her sweater shade. The main title text is varnished.
To left, on the back, on the pale teal background, Dakota is swinging through the air like Indiana Jones. Her body posture and facial expression indicate her confidence and joy. On the opening and closing endpapers is a muted midnight blue. Prior to the title page, on a crisp white background, Dakota Crumb is next to a magnifying glass, her bag, a treasure, and her "grappling hook". This image is tucked into the lower right-hand corner.
On the title page, a double-page picture gives readers an overview of the great, big city. The museum is on the right. Purple hues are prevalent. Golden yellow lights glow in windows. A large white moon hangs down from the top edge on the left.
Many elements, other than those, Dakota Crumb, finds are shown in the illustrations. Do you notice any objects which seem out of place? The double-page visuals give us an overview of the museum interior, take us close to Dakota Crumb, and offer a variety of perspectives. We look down on a scene. We look up toward the ceiling. We scurry, climb, and scamper next to Dakota Crumb. Rendered by Kelly Murphy using
pen and ink, colored digitally
these pictures convey a real sense of time and place.
One of my many favorite pictures accompanies the text above noted. Across the left side and most of the right side a tense moment for Dakota Crumb is showcased. On the left, she quickly scoops up the statue and puts it in her bag. A broom sweeps up other debris and perhaps other treasures. On the right we see the feet and lower portion of the legs of the caretaker. In the low light shadows increase the anxiety Dakota must be feeling. In the lower right-hand corner, we move into another moment. Dakota Crum holds her map, figuring out her next move.
Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter written by Jamie Michalak with illustrations by Kelly Murphy is a puzzle, a scavenger hunt, and a memorable midnight excursion fraught with exciting moments. Readers will be guessing what her next discovery will be as they notice other possible collectibles in the illustrations. At the close of the book Dakota Crumbs proposes readers return to the story and locate more than forty other objects. This book is certain to be a story time favorite. Be sure to have a copy in both your personal and professional collections.
We know each season has unique characteristics. Some of those seasons are more favorable than others to us for those very reasons. One thing about summer, though, is the abundance of everything. Colors are more vibrant, contrasting with other hues. There are more animals of every shape and size, birds, insects, mammals, large and small, amphibians, and reptiles. There are more flowers and blossoms on those flowers. There are all kinds of seeds being formed and dropped. And the trees are resplendent in all their leafy glory.
We cannot get so caught up in the shimmering grandeur of the varied green treetops against a clear, startling blue sky that we miss the existence of smaller, more fragile members of the natural community. Dear Treefrog (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 25, 2021) written by Joyce Sidman with illustrations by Diana Sudyka explores the transformation in a girl's thinking as her attention focuses on a discovered friend. Nature offers us lessons when we realign perspectives and time.
I See You
among the tangled green
a tiny dollop of
there was only leaf . . .
Recently moved into a new home and neighborhood, the girl starts to watch the treefrog. She mirrors its actions. It stays in silence. She does, too. It climbs and moves with care.
The girl realizes in watching the treefrog, she is becoming more a part of the natural world instead of only an observer. The treefrog offers security and steadfastness when the girl is feeling adrift. She wonders about the treefrog's past and breathes a sigh of relief when it hides from rambunctious newcomers.
She worries about its safety before and after a storm. She finds solace in other insect creatures when the treefrog cannot be found. Autumn brings about changes for the treefrog and the child, colder weather and school. There is one more surprise, a new friend for the girl.
The newly formed duo are kindred spirits. They walk through the world in much the same manner. They are more than willing to wait and watch through the seasonal shifts. Oh, there you are . . . dearest treefrog.
In a series of poetic letters, Joyce Sidmanreveals, through a first-person narrative, the contemplations and conclusions of our young protagonist. We are privy to her thoughts about her circumstances and those of the treefrog. Opposite each poem are one, two, three, or four sentences providing information about treefrogs in reference to something mentioned in the phrases. Here are two passages.
Against the window glass
we see more of you
Your pale belly
and gummy toes
Your half-moon throat
Treefrogs often climb windows, and walls with their sticky
toe pads, looking for insects. They hide in unexpected
places: on a hose, on top of a faucet, under a flowerpot.
You never know when you might run into a treefrog.
The images in this book,
rendered in gouache watercolor on paper,
are resplendent when first seen on the open and matching dust jacket and book case. The full-leafed, green shades of flora and striking bursts of yellow, orange, and pink supply a comforting environment for a lonely little girl and a treefrog friend. The raindrops shown on both the front and the back help readers to understand the lushness of the scene spread, left to right, flap edge to flap edge. A treefrog is nestled on a leaf on the front and the back. A bee is ready to land on a pink flower on the back.
Illustrator Diana Sudyka in green on a white canvas has created a pleasing pattern on the opening and closing endpapers. There are raindrops falling among flowers, leaves, ferns, stumps, branches, moss, treefrog eggs, dragonflies, tadpoles, beetles, butterflies, and mushrooms. The raindrops are larger as we turn to the title page, now their blue adds to the brilliance of the green atmosphere around the leaf where the treefrog rests.
Another page turn brings us to the dedication and publication information pages. Here Diana Sudyka begins her visual interpretation of the story. The girl, holding her stuffie cat stands among the green flora and flowers. Behind her a moving truck and mover bring things to her home on the right. Snug on a leaf on the right is the treefrog.
All the illustrations, double-page pictures, offer us gorgeous visuals in varying perspectives of the girl and the treefrog. Many times we move close to the treefrog in stunning scenes. Other times we transition from one moment to another flawlessly. Tiny labels appear in some of the pictures, denoting flowers, insects, birds, and frog information. The wide eyes on the girl and her new human friend offer insights into their moods.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when the girl is shown as the same size as the treefrog. There are fewer colors in this pictures, greens, blues, black, and white. The girl and the treefrog are black, as if in silhouette. She is holding a spyglass as the treefrog's first mate on the sailboat (leaf). It is an eloquent portrait.
You are transported to a special perspective in Dear Treefrog written by Joyce Sidman with illustrations by Diana Sudyka. It informs us about the connections between humans and other creatures and treefrogs. This book reminds us of the importance of our natural world. A final single page, More About Treefrogs and How to Welcome Them, answers four important questions. This title belongs on your personal and professional bookshelves.
To learn more about Joyce Sidman and Diana Sudyka and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites. Joyce Sidman has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Diana Sudyka has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. At The TeachingBooks Blog, Joyce Sidman talks about this book.
With all the blossoms blooming and warmer weather, day and night, butterflies and moths are frequent visitors to our backyards, neighborhoods, and surrounding meadows and woodlands. Of the two, moths seem to be more patient with human observation. In Moth & Butterfly: Ta-Da! (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, June 8, 2021)written by Dev Petty with illustrations by Ana Aranda, readers get an up-close-and-personal view of the two. Differences and similarities are explored with wit and truth. We witness seemingly miraculous changes. Are you ready?
In a corner of the lush, green garden,
two caterpillars share a leaf.
They share other things, too. They both have multiple legs and loads of spots. Their appetites for leaves are voracious. They are about to experience a natural phenomenon, metamorphosis.
Both are being wrapped in a new material. This enclosure is hiding a complete change. Weeks pass and then . . .
The caterpillars are now a moth and a butterfly. They still enjoy familiar activities, but one does them more often in daylight and the other does them more often at night. Physical differences have developed. They both have wings, less legs, and antennae, but they move specific to their needs.
The duo is destined to be companions celebrating each other. One day, they notice another caterpillar twosome. They greet them as only those in-the-know can do.
With carefully chose words, Dev Petty fashions a friendship story filled with facts. Her spare text and upbeat dialogue will have readers turning the pages as fast as the caterpillars gobble up leaves. The beginning of the story is tied to the conclusion with two key words, cementing the shared affection between moth and butterfly. Here is a passage.
And look! Both are champions
at chewing leaves into funny shapes.
Looking at the open dust jacket, readers know they are in for a treat. The color choices and the layout and design focus on the differences and the similarities. Moth stands out in the night, his hues coordinating against the evening tones and the moon. Butterfly glows in the sunny daylight, brilliantly colored. Even though they prefer opposite parts of a twenty-four-hour period, they are still high fiving each other and cheering.
To the left, on the back, the night sky is on the top and the sunny day is on the bottom. Flying beneath the moon and standing on a fern, Moth chats with Butterfly resting in the opposite corner. Both insects and celestial bodies are smiling.
On the open book case, left to right, a loop of yellow begins in the upper, left-hand corner enlarging as it moves to the lower right side. Beneath it, a larger canvas of dusky blue begins on the left and decreases in size as it moves to the right. On the left side, Moth and Butterfly hover over a large pink flower sipping nectar. On the right side, the duo is munching on a shared leaf as caterpillars. Leaves, ferns, and flowers add to the joy of these shared moments.
On the opening endpapers, in a luminous blue and green, butterfly as a caterpillar is featured on the left. Another flying insect passes Butterfly among numerous leaves. On the right side, colors reversed (blue on green), Moth happily frolics among an equal number of leaves. A ladybug stops to chat. On the closing endpapers a bright yellow highlights Butterfly in blue. The same flying insect zooms from right to left across the gutter. On the left, Moth in yellow enjoys the night, mingling among leaves and flowers, and an old shoe.
in watercolor, inks, gouache, and lime on watercolor paper
is in a word---joy. Beginning on the title page, we are introduced to Moth and Butterfly as their silhouette forms fly above a planter (yellow-painted bathtub) filled with flowers and leaves. With a page turn, we are taken outside to an expansive garden setting, the bathtub sitting among other flowers, plants, and a fountain in front of a cheerfully painted home. As caterpillars, Moth and Butterfly, in yellow, are on large leaves.
Each double-page picture, single-page image with large white frames, and single-page pictures, edge to edge, are bursting with color and animation. Whether we are shown a more panoramic view or a close-up, we are aware of the informative details Ana Aranda includes. We notice the antennae. We notice the time of day and passing of weeks. We notice the complete happiness of Moth and Butterfly within their garden home.
One of my many, many favorite pictures is a double-page picture. The duo has completed metamorphosis. They are flying above the garden. They are enthusiastically remarking on their wing colors. They and their observations are framed by the grass and flowers below them. Several bees watch the twosome.
This book, Moth & Butterfly: Ta-Da! written by Dev Petty with illustrations by Ana Aranda, is filled with fun and facts. This book is about friendship, new beginnings, things which are the same and those that are not. It asks us to notice the little things. It asks us to look for things in common while respecting distinctness. And it invites us to look for more information. At the close of the book a last page, Is it a moth or a butterfly?, supplies readers with more facts. For its upbeat presentation and as a springboard for further discussions, you'll want a copy in both your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about Dev Petty and Ana Aranda and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names. Dev Petty has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Ana Aranda has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view the title page. This book is showcased by John Schumacher, author, lecturer, and teacher librarian, on his site, Watch. Connect. Read. You will enjoy his chat with Dev Petty. This book and illustrator Ana Aranda are featured at Let's Talk Picture Books by Mel Schuit. You'll love Dev Petty's post at the Nerdy Book Club about change and this title. Here is a link to a virtual chat about this book hosted by Parnassus Books.
You never get too old to forget how much you deplored afternoon naps as a child. Who wants to sleep in the middle of a grand scheme? As a parent, the relief of a child taking a break is real. You are exhausted, needing quiet as much as they do. As an elder, a rest is not craved so much as savored.
The ingenuity of parents who know their child needs to sleep is a marvel. Strollercoaster (Little, Brown And Company, June 1, 2021) written by Matt Ringler with art by Raul the Third and Elaine Bay is an extraordinary cruise through the neighborhood. It's a rip-roaring ride on the wild side!
There's a time each and every day when
the inside feels too small for Sam . . .
Blocks block every path!
Trains have become untrained.
This dad knows there is only one thing to conquer this regular ritual. One, cranky child is placed in her stroller. Once secured and reminded of proper protocol, father and daughter take off. This duo has a need for speed!
They race by other homes, shops, and familiar faces. They climb past the basketball court and park playground. Reaching the crest, they whoosh down. Sam feels her spirits lifting her up, her grumpiness disappearing.
Dad performs near magical feats. Sam can't get enough of this fast and fascinating jaunt. Twists and turns take them deep into darkness---a tunnel.
There is no time or need for fear. A light appears ahead. Sounds fade. Speeds diminish. Destinations are reached. It is Strollercoaster for the win . . . again.
There is nothing quite so frustrating as being at odds with your world. Author Matt Ringler describes this daily routine perfectly in his opening sentences. The story quickly elevates when a walk becomes a rousing romp with a lively blend of dialogue, sound effects, and sensory observations. Here is a passage.
THE NEIGHBORHOOD FLIES BY!
Fresh sneakers. Sweet smells.
Shouts from the basketball court.
One look at the open dust jacket and readers know this dad and daughter are whizzing toward fabulous heights. (The image on the front and back extends to the flap edges. It's a panoramic view of the street.) On the right, front, we focus on Sam and her dad. Readers are invited to stop and look at all the elements here and throughout the book. Notice the smiling star and the stars on the stroller wheels. Notice Dad's necklace and the tiny heart on the post. On the spine, the symbol for the publisher is placed on an open paper scroll. (This placement is used for text on the title page, also.)
To the left, on the back, an ice cream store is called Sam's Shop. Another building has the words stroll, foot and walk on it in English. On either side of the doorway the Spanish words camina and pronto aptly describe what is happening. (Spanish and English words appear in the illustrations throughout the book.)
On the book case is a replication of the original artwork. It appears to be pencil on cream. The details are marvelous. This also gives the reader an idea of how transformative color is to artwork.
On the opening and closing endpapers is an identical illustration. A robin's egg blue sky is placed over an intricately drawn depiction of the entire neighborhood. That canvas is in varying shades of golden yellow with the lines in a rusty red. (It's guaranteed every time you look at this, you will find something new.)
The illustrations for this book were done in pen, ink, and pencil on paper and in Adobe Photoshop for the color
On the title page, the bright, bold hues and neighborhood scene welcome us into the story. The title word looks like the marquee in an amusement park. (Perfection!) The image sizes and perspectives vary to heighten the moods and pacing in the narrative.
Readers will notice how things change from the beginning to the end of the story. The expressions on the stuffies shift. The alphabet blocks spell different words. Facial features on Sam and her dad reflect the stage of their ride. People in the community are happy to see the duo.
One of my many, many favorite pictures is a double-page image with two smaller insets on the left. Sam and her dad are in the tunnel. The technique reminds me of scratchboard artwork. All the lines are in varied colors on black. In the first picture in the upper left, Sam and her dad move along the wall with OSCURO in large letters. Beneath this, in a second smaller visual, are the words
in a speech balloon.
As they move through the tunnel on the right toward the light and neighborhood beyond the exit, the word LUZ is written on the wall above the bricks. A heart has been drawn on the wall.
Readers will be with Sam and her dad every step of the way from beginning to end of Strollercoaster written by Matt Ringler with art by Raul The Third and Elaine Bay. Regardless of your age, you will identify with this story. The words and artwork make this afternoon ritual soar off the pages and straight into our collective hearts. I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional bookshelves.
There was immense uncertainty. There was little knowledge. There was too much knowledge. This was not at the local level, the state level, or at the national level. This was worldwide. It consumed every aspect of our lives.
It has been 110 days since receipt of the second dose of the vaccine to combat COVID-19. Prior to that time, 395 days were spent sheltering in place with my constant canine companion. Without the dedication of essential workers, it would have been far more difficult. Mail, packages (usually with books), and food were delivered. Conversations with those marvelous people were conducted through the window glass. Deep appreciation compelled the leaving of notes and gift cards for these wonderful human beings. Keeping The City Going (A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, April 27, 2021) written and illustrated by Brian Floca is a melodic, visual expression of gratitude. It echoes eloquently what many feel and believe.
We are here at home now,
watching the world through our windows,
and wondering what will happen next.
The world beyond those windows is not as it has been. It is nearly silent, businesses are closed, and neighbors are inside. There are still some people outside moving in all directions. They are the ones serving the city and its inhabitants. They are the ones needed to survive this unfamiliar happening.
They bring food from restaurants to our doorsteps. They bring food to our markets, making sure the shelves are rarely empty. There are people operating the vehicles providing transportation to those who work in those restaurants and markets. Taxis still race from place to place.
Sanitation workers tirelessly strive to keep the city clean. Postal workers deliver mail. Other services leave packages we can hardly wait to open.
Utilities we rely on 24/7, internet, electricity, gas, and water, continue because these essential workers are on the job. Firefighters, police officers, and EMTs work above and beyond committed in honoring their obligations. All members of hospital staffs push themselves to limits they are unaware they have. Though we are seeing this city through a window, we witness the steady continuation of vital activities. Each evening we honor them, at seven o'clock. Listen.
With that first sentence, author Brian Flocaportraysa moment felt by many people in cities (in all communities) around the world. With each subsequent thought he builds on the actions of all those not at home looking out at the world. He heralds their daily accomplishments needed by us. He does this by speaking plainly, but also poetically with veracity. Here is a passage.
They're delivering letters and packages---
boxes full of things people need
but can't go out to buy.
And maybe . . .
just maybe, they're brining
that one thing we ordered
that we don't really need . . .
If someone were to look at the open and matching dust jacket and book case for this title, their first thought might be about the masks people are wearing. This gives this book a timely quality for readers now, but also a timeless trait for readers in the future. Why are people wearing masks? Each of those vehicles and the people on and in them have a particular purpose necessary to this narrative. The fine lines, the attention to detail, the realistic but soft colors, are identifying qualities of Brian Floca's artwork throughout this book, throughout many of his books.
To the left, on the back, amid a white canvas is a single, loosely framed circular image. It is a close-up of a window placed in a block building. A tree branch hangs over the left corner. Taped to the window, on the inside, is a piece of paper. On the paper a rainbow has been drawn. This symbolizes hope. This action spread around the world.
A rich, earthy dark tan covers the opening and closing endpapers. Opposite the verso and dedication (In memory of Richard Jackson, editor and friend) page, a panoramic view of New York City is featured. These illustrations rendered in
watercolor, ink, acrylic, and gouache
are placed surrounded by white space, grouped together on a single page to emphasize a point, span a single page, edge to edge, or across two pages, edge to edge.
The images are replete with action in contrast to those sheltering inside, peering out their windows. All the elements in each picture, large or small, ask us to pause. They encourage us to remember the people who, whether we are in a lockdown or free to go about our daily lives, keep our communities working properly.
One of my many, many favorite images is toward the end of the book. It highlights an overview of two street corners, one street running along the bottom of the page and the other going away from us in the central area. Buildings line this street on both sides. It is the same scene shown earlier in the day. Now a golden hue covers the buildings as the sun moves lower in the sky. The street is still nearly quiet except for the portion of an ambulance driving off the left side. There is comfort in this picture, knowing there are those caring for us.
This book, Keeping The City Going written and illustrated by Brian Floca, is a gift. It is a gift to all those who worked day in and day out to maintain services for everyone. It is a gift to all readers, reminding us to never forget those who forged paths for creating easier lives for us amid one of the most challenging times in the last one hundred years. I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.
To discover more about Brian Floca and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website. Brian Floca has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The cover reveal is hosted at Publishers Weekly. This title is showcased at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. You will enjoy the conversation between her and Brian along with a lot of artwork. At the publisher's website you can view the entire jacket and case as well as interior pictures.
In seeking to find meaning for the word truth, other words, regardless of the source make a consistent appearance. The word fact is used repeatedly. Facts exist, occur, and are observable. They can be verified through differing forms of measurement.
To be presented with truth is to be better informed. To be better informed makes us better human beings, able to be respective of other individuals and their stories. Collaborators author Traci Sorell and illustrator Frane Lessac who brought us We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga return with We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know (Charlesbridge, April 20, 2021). These twelve truths are vital to understanding
Native citizens and Native Nations today.
Our Native Nations have always been here.
We are Indigenous to the continent now called North America.
Our leaders are sovereign and have power to make rules. Our
ways of life changed when white people arrived from Europe.
A Native Nations Community School is preparing for Indigenous Peoples' Day. For this event, topics are assigned to students to be presented at the gathering. Two pages are dedicated to each topic with an explanatory narrative and a definitive image.
To begin, the first delivery is for the word Assimilation. Rigid laws were enforced by United States leaders, requiring Native Nations to forgo their own governing, their sacred rituals, and the speaking of their languages. Can you imagine being removed as a child from your home and sent to a boarding school? Regardless,
"We are still here!"
Students speak about Allotment, Indian New Deal, Termination, Relocation, Tribal Activism, Self-Determination, Indian Child Welfare & Education, Religious Freedom, Economic Development, Language Revival, and Sovereign Resurgence. Native Nations' lands were taken and sold. The United States government did try to offer additional assistance to Native Nations during the Depression. Did you know treaty agreements with more than one hundred Native Nations were ended? Did you know people in Native Nations were left without support in cities after leaving their homes through encouragement and promises?
Through Tribal Activism and Self-Determination Native Nations have raised their voices in protest and created change. They have promoted progress for future people. They have championed for their religious beliefs to be upheld through the United States Supreme Court and Congress. Though federally regulated, tribal casinos provide for more economic opportunities. Native Nations' languages are being protected and preserved as part of their cultural heritage by laws passed in the United States Congress. After each student's display and speech, the words
"We are still here!"
follow, but they are never more power than after the presentation on sovereignty. Here is where voices are raised to protect the natural resources for everyone, assure Native Nations all aspects of their welfare are of vital concern, and
share information with the United Nations about our treatment in the United States.
The technique used to recount these twelve truths, the Indigenous Peoples' Day Project by students, is a superb choice by author Traci Sorell, appealing directly to the intended audience, but also engaging for all ages. Each topic (except one) is introduced with one or two sentences before a following statement is expanded with specific, descriptive, and supportive bullet points. Using the primary title of the book at the end of each presentation is an affirmation of survival, continuation, and connection. Here is a passage from Religious Freedom.
Native Nations sought help from the US Supreme Court, so that
. . .we could practice our beliefs and ceremonies.
. . .tribes could access sacred sites outside our lands.
. . .tribal citizens could keep and use sacred objects.
When the Court did not support us, Native Nations sought
support from Congress to say,
"We are still here!"
The bold, vibrant and varied colors on the open and matching dust jacket and book case mirror the personalities of the children carrying the flags of their tribes as they march in solidarity. These twelve children, six on the front and six on the back, are symbols of the twelve discussions found in this book. Their body language and facial expression suggest pride and determination.
On the opening and closing endpapers is a golden, orange hue. For the initial title page, a single-page picture gives us a view of one of the students working on the drawing for the first topic. Art supplies and note cards frame her work. On the formal title page, a two-page image shows an early evening sky sprinkled with stars. It is above the Native Nations Community School. Families (even a family dog) walk from left to right toward the entrance of the school. They are assembling for the Indigenous People's Day Presentations.
For the two introductory pages, artist Frane Lessac takes us into the classroom as the students prepare their projects. They work in groups at five tables. Along one wall is a list of the topics and the student assigned to each one.
Double-page visuals are devoted to each topic portraying historical and realistic details rendered in
gouache on Arches paper.
Frane Lessac takes us into a boarding school classroom, the vast expanse of the prairie as Native people struggle to maintain their lives in the midst of land grabbing by railroads, into the Oval Office for the signing of a law, the city of Denver with tall buildings, vast landscapes in forests, mountains, and by the water, into the United States Supreme Court, and in the streets for the Indigenous Peoples' March. With each reading, readers will notice more elements included in the illustrations.
One of my many favorite images is for the Indian New Deal. The color blue is predominant in the walls, flooring, curtains, and chairs. It highlights the tribal attire of the Native Nations' leaders standing on either side of the President as he signs the law. Every line and color have been carefully drawn. Time truly stands still as we are pulled into this moment.
No matter how often you read We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know written by Traci Sorell with illustrations by Frane Lessac, your realization of the veracity of the three words, everyone should know, increases. This is indeed a book everyone, yes, everyone, should read. At the close of the book further information is provided about the twelve topics, tribal flags, and the school shown in this title. Four pages are dedicated to a timeline of events. (I found myself matching the events to my age, remembering what I was doing and where I was when they happened.) This is followed by a Glossary Of Terms, Sources, and an Author's Note. You will want to have a copy of this title on your professional and personal bookshelves. It is to be shared widely and often.
Last evening a character, a grandfather, in a story was complaining repeatedly about getting old. He did not have one good word to say. Everything was wrong about adding years to your life. By the time the adventure he, his lifelong friend, his grandson and his grandson's friends shared was coming to an end, he remarked to his grandson about the grave error in his previous thinking. He realized getting old was a gift. It is one of the best gifts of all best gifts.
This change in perspective which many elders hold dear and live as a truth allows them to relish their neighbors, friends, and family. For many of them, this joy is expressed in the art of cooking. Dumplings for Lili (Norton Young Readers, an imprint of W. W. Norton & Company, June 1, 2021) written and illustrated by Melissa Iwai is a story of one granddaughter, many grandmothers, and the search for specific ingredients. Which dumpling is the best?
It's a special day
when Nai Nai says:
Lili, do you
want to help
These delectable delights are Lili's favorite food. Her grandmother has passed to her granddaughter eight secrets in making them taste scrumptious. Side by side they work until a startling discovery is made. There is no cabbage to help with the eighth secret.
Lili rushes to Babcia, another grandmother, who lives on the sixth floor to borrow cabbage. Unfortunately, the elevator is out of service. She and her pooch pal, Kiki, run up the flights of stairs. Babcia does have cabbage, but she is out of potatoes for making her pierogi. She makes a request of Lili. Down she and Kiki go to the second floor.
Once there, Granma has potatoes by lacks an item for her recipe. Up and down the stairs Kiki and Lili go from one grandmother to another, receiving and giving necessary food elements for each of their delicacies. She and Kiki are exhausted. Finally, they are back with Nai Nai.
Later, six grandmothers and Lili meet outside, each bringing a version of their dumpling dishes. It is a gathering of goodness, for hearts and bodies. And yes, dear reader, one more dumpling makes an appearance, a seventh dumpling. It is another of the best gifts of the best gifts.
Like blending the elements in a recipe, author Melissa Iwai combines narrative and conversation to welcome readers to go on this journey of culture, language, and cooking with Lili. The secrets are interlaced in the story flawlessly. Word choices convey the lively spirit of Lili, Kiki, and the beloved grandmothers. Here is a passage.
As Kiki and I are about to leave, she says, "!O, cielos!
I'm out of cumin! How will I finish my tamales?"
I remember that Nonna on 3rd floor has lots of
spices in her kitchen. "Don't worry, Abuela," I say.
"Kiki and I will go ask Nonna for cumin!"
The first hint readers have of the happiness found in the pages of this book is on the open and matching dust jacket and book case. On the front, we meet Lili framed in shades of green flora as she inhales the wondrous odor of the cooked baos. Around those we see dumplings representing food traditions from other countries.
To the left, on the back, the spring green hue continues, covering the entire surface. Dancing in the center are Lili and Kiki. Kiki's front paws are being held by Lili, as the dog balances on its hind legs.
On the opening and closing endpapers, a culinary bliss greets readers. Placed on a canvas of pale blue are recreations of six kinds of dumplings in an enticing pattern. They are labeled in white, fatayer, ravioli, bao, pierogi, tamale, and Jamaican beef patty.
On the initial title page, two bao, one with a missing bite, are featured. A two-page illustration, including the apartment building on the left with the grandmothers and Lili in windows, is displayed for the formal title page. Pigeons roost and fly around the homes.
The images in this book rendered in watercolor and layered digitally by artist Melissa Iwai are a visual gallery of diversity. Through her research, elements representing each culture are included in the depictions of each grandmother's home. The details ask readers to pause at each page turn, noticing what is on the shelves and the walls. Many of the significant words are shown in speech bubbles.
The pictures vary in size from double-page images to a group of smaller illustrations on a single page, and single-page pictures, with and without framing. These, along with different perspectives, enhance the careful pacing. Readers (this reader) will especially enjoy the large double-page image mapping Lili's adventure up and down the stairs of the six floors. It reminds us of names and dumplings. Careful readers will also note the passage of time by looking at the various clocks on the walls.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is that of Nai Nai tying the back of the apron on Lili. There is something loving and intimate about this action between a grandmother and her granddaughter. It is a single-page picture. We are close to the duo. The colors in Nai Nai's clothing and glasses are reflected in the fruit on the pockets of Lili's apron. Kiki is seated and watching near the kitchen table. Tools needed for the making of the baos are placed on the table.
For a commemoration of food, grandmothers, friends, family, and an array of cultures, Dumplings for Lili written and illustrated by Melissa Iwai is an exceptional selection. Through her writing and artwork, it is a sensory experience, one we would gladly duplicate. At the close of the book, two pages are dedicated to Nai Nai's Baos. There we can use ingredients and secrets to make our own baos. Melissa Iwai's delicate drawings show us exactly how to fold the dumplings. I highly recommend this title for both your professional and personal collections.