Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Wee Wonders

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.

To learn more about Steve Light and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  Steve Light has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TwitterInterior pictures can be viewed at Penguin Random House.  Steve Light chats with author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson about this title at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  You will love, love, love the conversation and artwork.  The virtual launch was held at Books of Wonder.

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 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.


Too slow.
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.

To learn more about Jamie Michalak and Kelly Murphy and their other work, follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Jamie Michalak has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Kelly Murphy has accounts on Behance, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website there is an eleven-page activity kit you can download.  At Penguin Random House you can view interior images.  At teacher librarian, lecturer, and author John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read., Jamie and John chat about this title.  Jamie is also interviewed at GoodReadsWithRonna.  Jamie Michalak has a guest post at the Nerdy Book Club regarding this book.

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