If you are a reader who is happiest sharing what you've read with others, sometimes, more often than not, as you are reading another part of your mind will be thinking about who will enjoy this book the most. You can't help but wonder how you can booktalk it. What parts will you share? You imagine using the book as a read aloud or showpiece in a thematic story time.
A place where students, educators and parents can exchange and express views about the best of books, new technologies and libraries.
Quote of the Month
When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin
Wednesday, September 29, 2021
Mix and Match Making Magic
Two weeks ago, an individual took her experience as an
Emmy-winning visual effects and motion graphics artist and . . . a decade as an elementary school librarian
and used those talents in her debut as both author and illustrator. She previously released three picture book titles and a middle grade novel as an author. Circle Under Berry (Chronicle Books, September 14, 2021) written and illustrated by Carter Higgins is a sensory sensation. Vivid colors combine with classic shapes and spare text to expand our understanding of possibilities.
circle under berry
berry over square
In the next phrase, another item and color are added. The words are re-arranged, one disappears, and two more are included. This shifts the experience. Two separate thoughts become one single idea.
Then, the original colors stay the same, but they are defined differently. A new term is introduced. Circle and square are now a trio of shapes.
With the next page turn, readers will be gasping at the appearance of a guppy! Yes, a guppy is invited into the conversation. Careful readers will be flipping back to previous pages to see how this evolved.
Wow! More animals and another hue are now part of the narrative. We are asked questions as more shapes, directions, and color names are entered into the mix. What can we do with these shapes, shades, and adverbs and prepositions? We realize as we read, we hold the key to what we see. We have the power to expand, subtract, identify and create. We have the power of story.
Author Carter Higgins begins by stating what we believe is the obvious, but she quickly switches the pattern and pace with a page turn. We now know, this is going to be an extraordinary exploration of colors, shapes, and language. With each new word, hue, and form, she is challenging us. With her questions, she is asking us to participate. We except the challenge and invitation, because we can't wait to read what she will say next!
On a page we see a square. Beneath it is a diamond. Beneath that diamond is a pig shaped from hearts and circles. What we read is:
blue up high
pig down low
yellow in between
White space is used brilliantly by illustrator Carter Higgins on the book case and throughout the book. It is her canvas for altering the tale and the elements in that tale. It draws our attention with purpose to what she wants us to sense with every page turn. When you open this larger-than-usual board book (It is a little more than 7.5 inches wide and just about 10 inches tall.), you can see how she begins with primary and secondary colors on the front, right side.
To the left, on the back, we are shown three shapes of distinct colors. Next to them are altered shapes turned into animals. We are questioned about what we see. Here, too, we read what would usually appear on the front flap of a dust jacket. Without even opening the book, we are eager to discover the potential it holds
On the opening endpapers are nine shapes in nine varied colors. They represent primary colors, secondary colors, and tints or shades. On the closing endpapers the original diamond, square, circle, triangle, octagon, heart, trapezoid, rectangle, and oval have changed in appearance. They are now animals, something to consume, and a place to reside.
were cut and collaged from hand-painted paper and then assembled digitally.
They are presented to us initially in a vertical row. First there are two, then there are four. Two pages with two, then a single page with four. It supplies us with an expected cadence, but then Carter Higgins switches this for two pages before going back to the original rhythm and then . . . we come to accept the remarkable, especially when one of the creations nearly hops off the page. Soon shapes are shown in a horizontal line, as well as a vertical row. Our minds are expanding with choices and opportunities!
One of my many favorite illustrations is after we've seen a rectangle, the color emerald, and a grasshopper made with shades of green and familiar forms. Under the grasshopper we read:
This grasshopper is at the bottom of a crisp white canvas. With a page turn that same crisp white canvas is almost empty. At the bottom we still read
but in the upper, right-hand corner is the word
We see only the back portion of the grasshopper in that corner in mid leap. Genius.
You need to get and read a copy of Circle Under Berry written and illustrated by Carter Higgins as soon as possible. This concept book has been presented as a board book, but make no mistake, this book is for everyone. You simply can't read it once. I've lost count of how many times I've read it. Use it to present colors, shapes, parts of speech, creativity and for pure enjoyment. I highly recommend you have a copy in all your collections, personal and professional. I'll be giving it out to trick-or-treaters this Halloween.
To learn more about Carter Higgins and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name. Carter Higgins has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view interior images. Carter Higgins is interviewed at Publishers Weekly and at Let's Talk Picture Books.
UPDATE: Carter Higgins talks about writing this book on her blog, Design Of The Picture Book It is a fascinating discussion of her process.
Posted by Xena's Mom at 7:45 PM 0 comments
Labels: Carter Higgins, Colores, Pattern perception, Shapes
Friday, September 24, 2021
Spaces In Our World, Places In Our Hearts
Each morning a stroll through the gardens reveals the presence of night visitors. Their tracks are embedded in the dirt. Stalks and branches from flowers and shrubs lay on the ground, nibbled and left. Other plants have been eaten to their roots. There is an abundance of white-tailed deer in our neighborhood.
Truthfully, watching them wander through the apple trees across the street or seeing them stop and stare at us as we walk in the morning never stops being magical. Sharing this space with them is a gift. Masterful, award-winning author illustrator Yuyi Morales made a new book, Bright Star (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, September 7, 2021), for us. In this title we, using a blend of Spanish and English, are presented with beauty, borders, barriers, and the value of all individuals.
then breathe out,
You are beloved. We hold your light in our hearts. The world has many things to notice, some easily seen and others more of a challenge.
Exploring together we will find flora and fauna, rich and rare. Wait! Pay attention, something is amiss. For now, stay hidden. Stay safe.
If we get separated, we still hold your light in our hearts. If you are fearful or restless, let those around you know of your fright and frustration. You will be heard. Then, be still. Use your senses to make discoveries.
If those discoveries pave a new path, follow it. Using your mind, fashion a different tale, your tale. It will be a tale told by those who always hold your light in their hearts.
With each page turn, one to four sentences, simple but thoughtful and intentional, written by Yuyi Morales warmly welcome us into the narrative. The Spanish and English words are perfect partners in this lyrical dance. The use of punctuation provides an added liveliness. We willingly participate in listening to the words and reading them aloud. Here is the passage we read after a page turn.
So you search!
You are ready,
Looking at the background on the open and matching (reversed images) dust jacket and book case is like being enveloped by an autumn sunset sky. On the dust jacket, it and the entire image, extend flap edge to flap edge. The white-tailed deer, a fawn, peering between the cactus on the Sonoran Desert is still, observant. What does it see? The rays around the raised title text are embossed in gold foil. The author illustrator name is raised on the textured fabric.
The cactus crosses the spine and another one frames the face of a little girl. She is looking directly at readers. It is as if she is asking us a question. On the book case, the image on the back of the jacket is on the front and the front image moves to the back of the book case. The fawn and the child are one and the same.
The fabric shown on the front of the jacket covers the opening and closing endpapers. Yuyi Morales has woven threads in golden yellow and forest green along the top and bottom of the pages. She has embroidered five large stars, made by crossing perpendicular lines. They are in earth colors. On the far-left edge on the opening endpapers and on the far-right edge on the closing endpapers is a mass of pink sewn dots, mirroring the color of the cactus flowers.
On the title page, a double-page picture features cactus on either side and a hummingbird on the right.
The artwork for this book was created using acrylic paint on paper,
photographed textures, digital painting, as well as weaving and embroidery.
Each two-page image in this book asks us to stop. They are a complete sensory experience. The representations of flora and fauna are breathtaking. The backgrounds in the illustrations indicate the narrative mood as well as the time of day. What do we see in these visuals?
As she did with her words, each element in these images is arranged with intention and considerable thought. The scene of the destruction around the building of the border wall and the animals wondering how to continue with their instinctive journeys is particularly poignant. The placement of a wordless picture is perfection. For the final two page turns, the fawn becomes the girl child. Deer are embroidered on the front and back of her shirt. In the last visual, several of the children have featured animals on their shirts.
One of my many favorite illustrations is for the text above cited. The sky and desert floor are nearly identical in color, as so often happens on a clear, calm morning. Cactus and small shrubs are peppered on the sand. A roadrunner, a jack rabbit, a ground squirrel, and a lizard join the fawn and its mother. Several insects and birds are present. One of the birds is the hummingbird. On the left the fawn stands eager to move. It jumps three times with a blur of movement; until it joins its mother on the right.
At the close of this book, Bright Star written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, in an author's note are eleven supportive statements and paragraphs beginning with
I made this book because . . .
In reading this book, you realize Yuyi Morales has accomplished her reasons and more. This book is deeply moving and timely. You can't read it once. You will want to share it often and widely. Be sure to have a copy on your personal and professional bookshelves. At the close of the book in an acknowledgment is a list of videos and films, books, online sources, organizations, and people that assisted in the creation of this title.
To discover more about Yuyi Morales and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name. Yuyi Morales has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. The cover reveal and conversational thoughts by Yuyi Morales and Neal Porter was hosted by John Schumacher, librarian, lecturer at Rutgers University, and writer, on his Watch. Connect. Read. site. Yuyi Morales is showcased at Publisher's Weekly where she shares the process for making this book. At the publisher's website are additional bonus materials. At Penguin Random House you can view the endpapers. Here is a link to Yuyi Morales reading her book aloud on video at KidLit TV. If you are interested here is a link to an event with Yuyi Morales speaking about this book.
Posted by Xena's Mom at 7:19 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, September 22, 2021
In His Own Time
As a student, a family member, and an educator, you experience the requirements of criteria to be met at certain grades, numbers assigned to books to "level" them, and programs in support of leveling, some with built-in quizzes and rewards. You watch a beloved relative crushed by their slowness to read compared to their parents' expectations. Countless times you've seen sadness pool in students' eyes when the book they want to read is either too high or too low of a required "level". Supported by research, we know individuals learn at their own pace.
Some goals are more easily met than others, but if it is a desired milestone, it will be achieved. It is not for us to say when. A Walk in the Words (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, September 14, 2021) written and illustrated by Hudson Talbott is the personal chronicle of his struggle with words, reading, and books.
Drawing always came naturally to me.
I drew all the time. I just did it,
This child, this boy, created his own stories in pictures, every day. He enjoyed words, too. One word at a time was how he appreciated them. When they were grouped in a sentence, he stumbled. No one knew how slow he was at reading.
Books terrified him. Originally, they were fun. They had loads of pictures and few words. As the word count grew and the number of pictures lessened, he lived in fear people would realize he could not read like his classmates. His loneliness in this knowledge was like walking through a forest made of words.
Remember though, this child, this boy, had a gift, the gift of drawing like breathing and drawing stories. He used his love of both, drawing and stories to navigate through words. He found what he knew to make a path toward what he wanted to know.
On this new adventure in reading, he made another discovery. Speed is not essential. Other notables were slow like him. He experimented with words, drawing, and words and drawing combined. He practiced and practiced. In time, in his own time, the world, the world of readers, discovered this teller of tales.
Each time a page is turned, if it is the first or tenth time, we are brought into this very real story of conflict and triumph, of pursuing and finding. Hudson Talbott expresses himself through vivid and specific descriptions of every emotional moment. Even though we feel his frustration and fear, there is an undercurrent of courage. As this determination is depicted and built little by little, Hudson Talbott is supplying readers with a type of guide or map. We cheer for him and celebrate his success. Here is a passage.
One big word
was stalking me---
overwhelm. It described
the feeling of too many words
coming at me at the same time.
It made me want
to give up.
But I loved stories
too much to quit.
Opening the matching dust jacket and book case, readers can first see on the front, right side, a backpack-wearing boy standing in a woods of words. His stance, facial features and clenched fist are those of someone ready to reach their heart's desire, no matter what it takes. He holds in his left hand his tools for pictorial storytelling. This image invites us to stop and read all the words. What do they mean to us? What did they mean to this boy? I believe it is important to note the light behind and around him.
The tree branches continue on the other side of the spine, to the left, on the back. Has the implication of the words changed? These words frame a blub about the book at the top by author Jacqueline Woodson. Beneath this are praise statements for other books by Hudson Talbott.
On the opening and closing endpapers are marbleized shades of green like the floor in the forest. On the title page is a single picture. A pathway of stones holding some of the text leads to the boy standing under the R in WORDS. This text is shaped like trees. On the verso page childlike drawings frame the text. They are an indication of Hudson's drawing at an early age.
These illustrations rendered
in watercolors, colored pencil, and ink on Arches watercolor paper
heighten the already immersive text. They take us beyond the words, deeper into the journey. The single-page and the double-page pictures in full color are highly animated, detailed and full of imagery. The use of light and shadow and white space is exemplary.
One of my many favorite illustrations is the first double-page image. We are in the living room of Hudson's home. The room, its furniture, the floor, the family dog, and the children seen playing outside the window are done in grayscale. In the center of the scene, in full color is a large sheet of paper covered in a story drawn by Hudson. A box of colored pencils and box of crayons are shown scattered on the floor on the left side of the drawing. On the right side of the gutter and across it slightly to the left, this drawing appears like water. Hudson is
diving into my own world.
His body to the left of the gutter is mostly out of the water. The rest is swimming into the story. This is ingenious.
Once you read A Walk in the Words written and illustrated by Hudson Talbott, you will be compelled for all the right reasons to share copies of this book with other children, parents, and educators. It is a title supplying understanding and encouragement to others like Hudson. It is a title for all of us. Be sure to read the author's note at the end. (There is one portion which broke my heart.) I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.
To learn more about Hudson Talbott and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website. Hudson Talbott has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can view interior images at the publisher's website and at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
Posted by Xena's Mom at 11:25 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Stitched in librarians' hearts are the words
the right book for the right reader at the right time.
When this happens, the world of that reader and those around them changes. In their excitement at reading this book, they read it to others or speak about it with others. These others in turn do the same. Words are powerful. They are even more transformative in books.
It is also said this purpose is shared by all those devoted to books and reading. It is a gift happily given again and again. Yours In Books (Cameron Kids, September 21, 2021) written by Julie Falatko with illustrations by Gabriel Alborozo is an endearing correspondence between two individuals, One is a bookshop owner. The other is someone seeking solitude to read. During the course of their written conversations, we grow in understanding of the power of words lovingly written and illustrated in books.
Pine: A Bookshop
Knobby Pine Northeast of the Big Fir
I received your marvelous catalog in the mail and
spent many long hours reading the descriptions
of all the books.
Owl T. Fencepost has requested a book be sent to his address at the
Top of Oak
Near the Clearing
and the Noisy Small Animals.
He wants to soundproof his home so he can read in peace and quiet. B. Squirrel, the bookshop owner, replies to Owl his desired title is out of stock. Is there another title he wishes to purchase?
Well, Owl has decided to vacant his premises and wants to locate on an island far, far away from the Top of Oak. As the second title is also out of stock, B. Squirrel decides to send a book encouraging Owl T. Fencepost to stay where he is. You get the real sense of Owl's frustration in his next letter. As he reads another book aloud, the noisy neighborhood children appear and want him to read it aloud to them. He does this but writes it will be for the last time.
The other thing readers will notice is the shift in the letter writing between B. Squirrel and Owl T. Fencepost. Their greetings and closings are becoming friendly rather than professional. A relationship is forming. Instead of a book on fence building, B. Squirrel sends Owl T. a book on cooking and baking.
Each book B. Squirrel sends is having the opposite effect Owl T. wants in response to the boisterous children. The evident humor and budding trust in their letter writing increases. An invitation is issued by Bessie. She wants Owl to visit the bookshop. In the next several exchanges between Bessie and Owl, something is being planned by the children who now fill Owl's abode. The messages between Owl and Bessie get shorter as anticipation and excitement build. Books, reading, and most importantly, children, can make our lives better. They did for a bookshop owner and an individual who thought he wanted to read in solitude.
There is an art to letter writing. That art is even more evident when an author pens letters written between two characters. Julie Falatko through the exchange of letters allows us to participate in the developing relationship between Bessie and Owl.
This friendship forms through their shared love of books. In the titles of the requested books and those sent by Bessie to Owl, we are recipients of Julie Falatko's wonderful sense of finding and sharing joy and her keen observation skills of relationships. Here are portions of a letter to Bessie from Owl and her reply.
However, the aromas of warm food heating on
my stove brought all the noisy neighborhood
children to my doorstep. Please send The
Busy Owl's Guide to Food That Will Not Entice
Neighborhood Children to Stop By Uninvited.
The book you requested does not seem to exist.
Is it possible you were making a joke? If so, I
am delighted. It sounds like you and the children
might enjoy 50 Fanciful Biscuits and Cakes, which
I have enclosed, of course.
When you look at the open dust jacket, you get a preview of what artist Gabriel Alborozo imagined when reading the manuscript written by Julie Falatko. To the left of the spine, on the back, is a close-up view of Owl T. Fencepost's writing desk. He has started a letter to the bookshop. His pen rests on the paper with his glasses nearby. Stacks of books can be seen on either side as well as a vase with flowers and a matching teacup and saucer. Through a picture window we get his view from the Top of Oak.
To the right of the spine, on the front, we see Owl and Bessie reading together in her bookshop with some of the children. Do you see the snail in the lower right-hand corner? It is a postal worker. (I love the nod to snail mail.) Another enchanting aspect are the two birds holding the paper, letter writing paper, with the text.
The book case is designed to be a book wrapped in brown paper, tied with two-tone string. The bow is on the front along with a cancelled stamp. The cancellation is for Oak Post Office. A crowned owl is featured on the stamp.
Two distinct scenes are showcased on the opening and closing endpapers. They are fine-lined drawings in black on creme. The first is an overview of the oak in the lower, right-hand corner and the bookshop in the upper, left-hand corner. Included are a pathway with a bridge over a stream, other trees, a pond, and a playground. We zoom in to Owl's tree on the closing endpapers. It is large and fills nearly all the right side, crossing the gutter as the treetops spread to the left. Owl stands in his doorway holding a book as the children play below him. Owl and Bessie, each holding a book, stand together on the title page.
These full-color images vary in size and perspective. Many of them are double-page pictures with the letter placed on the side opposite most of the illustration. Sometimes, for the purpose of pacing, single pages are devoted to the letters and their writers. And to heighten the expectations of events to come, smaller visuals are grouped two to a page for several pages. These illustrations reveal the personalities of Bessie and Owl in the descriptive and included details. You will be thrilled with two wordless, double-page pictures.
One of my favorite illustrations is a double-page picture. We are inside Owl's home. Celebratory chaos is evident. Birds are flying. A bunny swings on a ceiling lamp. A tiny hedgehog clings to the broom handle held by Owl. Other animals are scampering about the room. Owl holds a red balloon in one claw. Food is scattered. Is that water on the floor? Is that a plunger a squirrel is holding? Is that a roll of toilet paper unraveling?
If you are of the mind one can never have too many books to read or too many friends, Yours In Books written by Julie Falatko with artwork by Gabriel Alborozo is the title for you. Read this book for sheer enjoyment or to promote a discussion about the power of books to change lives or how letter writing can forge friendships. This title is charming from beginning to end and should find a place on both your personal and professional bookshelves.
To discover more about Julie Falatko and Gabriel Alborozo and their other work, please access their respective websites by following the link attached to their names. Julie Falatko has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. Julie Falatko chats with Heidi Fiedler at Book Magic. Gabriel Alborozo is highlighted at Words & Pictures. After watching this video, you'll be inspired to bake or you might get lost down the rabbit hole of acorn crafts, book making crafts or tea parties on Pinterest.
Posted by Xena's Mom at 10:00 PM 0 comments
Thursday, September 16, 2021
Beginning With A Letter
Yesterday a long-awaited delivery was made. (Actually, it is the start of the realization of a dream, but that is for another post.) The two men who carefully unloaded my items from the truck spoke Spanish to each other, but to me they spoke perfect English. In the course of our conversations, they told me they were from the Dominican Republic. They reminded me, regardless of the length of time we or our families have resided in the United States unless we are members of one of the more than five hundred Native Nations, we are all immigrants.
After the men left in their truck, an effort was made to locate the boxes holding a special group of books soon to be placed on one of the four, six-foot-tall bookcases now in my dining room. For decades, the number of alphabet books in my personal collection has been growing. Alphabet books range from the simple to complex, a single word for each letter or a selection of thoughts centered in a letter. They are a distinctive manner in which to present information or to expand our imaginations. I Is For Immigrants (Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt and Company, June 15, 2021) written and illustrated by Selina Alko is a gorgeous portrait in words and images of what our country is and what it can be.
We journey through communities noting items for sale, food and beverages consumed, hair styles, sports, holidays, cultural traditions, instruments, and things gathered for facts or fun. Larger words, in meaning, are inserted. These words promote individual musings or group discussions.
We savor the flavors bubble tea, churros, dumplings, frankfurters, kimchi, and samosas. We study the countries of their origin. We seek the recipes which best duplicate the original delectable sensations.
We honor the Day of the Dead, Hanukkah and Ramadan. We rejoice with those participating in their quinceaneras. We search for the meanings behind each of these celebrations.
We listen to the notes traveling over the air from drums, mandolins, and zithers. We hear the chatter and cadence of languages spoken in every corner of our planet. We enjoy books, flea markets, Japanese gardens, Lady Liberty, and stories. Oh, the stories we take into our hearts for their individuality and their universality.
We ponder belonging, endurance, freedom, and truth. We acknowledge the struggles of others, the dreamers and refugees. We, like all individuals, hold tightly to hope.
In her author's note Salina Alko states:
The topic of immigration is close to my heart.
This statement is reflected in every word displayed in the visual designed for each of the twenty-six letters. There are a multitude of words to select, but Salina Alko chooses those mirroring a reality in communities, large and small across our country. She picks words familiar to numerous people. She invites us to understand those words new to us. With her choices, she wants us to know the richness to be found all around us. Here are some of the words for the letter F.
fish & chips
Gouache and collage on Arches watercolor paper were used to create the illustrations for this book
by Selina Alko. When you open the dust jacket the sky and ground extend from right to left over the spine. The water breaks and continues on either side of the spine. Multiple styles of transportation are featured on the land, water, and in the air. All the text, including the large I in the center, is varnished. The bold, bright colors highlighted on the dust jacket are used throughout the book. They indicate the liveliness of the text and the bounty of its meanings.
The lovely turquoise in the water covers the front and back of the book case. The large letter I with the Statue of Liberty is embossed in gold on the front, right side. The author's last name, title and publisher are in gold on the spine as is a smaller representation of the Statue of Liberty.
A royal blue covers the opening and closing endpapers. Inside the large capital I on the title page are the faces of people from many cultures. For twelve of the letters two pages are devoted to the images. Of the other fourteen letters, the single pages blend together as one visual.
Each page turn asks us to pause. We study each element wondering why it has been carefully placed in this book for us by Selina Alko. We notice the tiny details like the cancelled US postage stamp in honor of Grandma Moses for the letter G.
The backgrounds are varied. Some are from other pages of documents or books or other papers. The colorful hues reach out to us and envelope us. A variety of fonts add to the superb effect.
One of my many, many favorite illustrations is for the letter C. The predominant colors are shades of red and yellow with pink, green, and black for line work and letters. The three largest words are Chinatown, CULTURE and CREATIVITY. We feel as though we are walking through Chinatown, but churros are part of the visual, too. There are numerous letters, small and large for C. There is a group of three Children. There is a COMMUNITY CENTER sign. Cherries and cherry blossoms are shown. The hanging lanterns look like large cherries. A hand is holding a set of chopsticks. Selina Alko has used the word CENTS, also.
In order for us to embrace all the wonder of the individuals residing in the United States, it is important to read and share widely I Is For Immigrants written and illustrated by Selina Alko. It is a joyous tribute to this country and the people who now call it home. I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about Selina Alko and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Selina Alko has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view several of the letters.
Posted by Xena's Mom at 9:30 PM 0 comments
Labels: Alphabet books, Immigrants, Multiculturalism, Selina Alko
Tuesday, September 14, 2021
Withstanding The Worst
Early this morning a band of thunderstorms raced along the western side of the tip of the Mitt. The daily early morning walk with my canine companion was shorter than usual as thunder rumbled and lightning split the eerie darkening sky. A trip to the shore revealed layers of black and gray hovering over Lake Michigan as wind started to whip tree branches.
Sometimes storms are predicted, and we can prepare. Other times, they appear as if conjured by the hand of an unseen sorcerer. Truthfully, even with science and preparations, we are at their mercy. During days of confinement, The Longest Storm (mineditionUS, August 31, 2021) written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino views the unexpected through family dynamics. Like life, it is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.
A storm came to our town.
It was unlike any storm
we'd ever seen.
Going outside was not an option. We were stuck inside for a-yet-to-be-determined amount of time. All those tasks we never had time to do; they disappeared from our minds.
We were not used to being together, hour after hour, day after day. As a family, we forgot how to talk with each other. We forgot how to relate to each other. It was weird. It became terrible. Tempers flared.
Being alone was the chosen method of avoiding hard truths, until one horrible night the storm rocked the house's and our family's foundations. (Sometimes in the very worst possible situation, a shift sends out a single shaft of light. It helps to guide us to where we need to be.)
In the light of a new day, much was the same, except for us. The weirdness wanned. In a good way, our attitudes toward each other were transformed. Over time, the clouds vanished, the sun shone, and we left the house to begin fresh.
With each meticulously created sentence, Dan Yaccarino writes a story with multiple meanings. It is indeed about a storm, a meteorological event, but a storm by its very definition is applicable in many situations. Each thought revealed in the narrative is universally understood. We have experienced surprise, uncertainty, the disconnections, the frustrations, and the sudden knowledge of needing to rely on each other.
The declarations are simple, but profound. They disclose what makes humans united, more alike than different. Here are two sentences placed at particular points in the story.
There was nothing to do,
and too much time to do it.
Is it possible for a family to run out of nice things to say?
The open and matching dust jacket and book case are a preview of circumstances to come. On the back, left side, the family canine is outside their home, eyeing the black cloud moving across a blue sky. Three rows of squares, etched in black, represent a window in the red brick home. The ISBN is cleverly placed within three squares on the bottom row.
On the right side, the front, the family, arm in arm, watch the approaching storm. They are unaware of what awaits them. The dog looking directly at the reader asks us to join the family and their story. On both the jacket and case, the family and text are varnished. The color palette is suggestive of shifts.
On the opening endpapers, in black, red, and cream clouds extend from the upper, right-hand corner to the lower, left-hand corner. Wind and leaves swirl. The closing endpapers present another scenario, after the storm has passed.
Across the verso and title pages, a double-page picture depicts the beginning of the storm. Black and gray clouds roll in from left to right, blocking out the blue of the sky. Wind blows autumn leaves past the house. Two of the children are still outside, one in a tire swing and the other playing with their dog. Their father watches from inside the house.
Each image, rendered in Dan Yaccarino's signature style, mirrors the pacing and mood of the story. Picture sizes are double-page visuals, edge to edge, groups of smaller illustrations to place emphasis on the narrative, and single-page pictures, edge to edge. Backgrounds reflect the emotional state of the family and accentuate pictorial portraits of the text. Time is most notably depicted in the state of the father's beard. Several page turns, five, are striking in their representation of dramtic moments. Of the five, only two have words.
One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page, wordless picture. It is after the big kaboom made during the storm. The colors are dark purple, sky blue, black and a spot of golden yellow. Two perspectives are shown in this single image. To the left of the gutter, we see the oldest child standing outside their father's open bedroom door in the hallway. We see feet, legs, and the lower body. They are close to us. Inside the bedroom are the father, the two smaller children nestled on either side of him, and the family dog, now on the dad's bed. A candle glows on the nightstand. The two smaller children and the father look expectantly at the older child. Rain falls in sheets outside the rows of panes in the bedroom window.
This book, The Longest Storm written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino, falls with excellence in the timeless and timely class of titles. It rings out truth, solidly and soothingly. It is one to read often and to share widely. I highly recommend it for your personal and professional collections. It will make a superb gift.
To learn more about Dan Yaccarino and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website. Dan Yaccarino has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. At the publisher's website you can view the opening endpapers. Dan Yaccarino wrote a guest post at the Nerdy Book Club, Weathering The Storm Together. Here is a link to some activity pages. Dan Yaccarino is interviewed at Max's Boat about this book.
Posted by Xena's Mom at 6:10 PM 0 comments
Labels: Dan Yaccarino, Family life-Fiction, Storms-Fiction
Thursday, September 9, 2021
Oh, Those Amazing Animals 2
Their cleverness is astounding. So is their adaptability. These two, ingenuity and versatility, have been and continue to be the key to their survival in an ever-and-fast-changing environment. Humans have failed repeatedly in their stewardship of our planet, but animals continue to prevail. Their lives move to rhythms we don't fully comprehend.
The more we do understand, the more we appreciate the marvelous animals inhabiting this world. In North & South: A Tale Of Two Hemispheres (Candlewick Press, July 6, 2021) written and illustrated by New Zealand author illustrator Sandra Morris, we journey through the months of the year. Each month a special characteristic is examined and compared in the two hemispheres. Let us begin this enlightening exploration.
Earth is divided into the Northern Hemisphere and the
Southern Hemisphere by an imaginary line called the equator.
One of the most important differences between the two hemispheres is the timing of
In the introduction we find that the four seasons, winter, spring, summer, and autumn as well as the dry season and wet season in each hemisphere are being affected by climate change. This along with other human recklessness is putting animals in danger.
It is estimated that sixty percent of mammal, bird, fish, and reptile populations have been wiped out since 1970.
We are further informed as to which months fall within each of the seasons.
Two pages are devoted to each month. These sections are titled, and a single sentence defines those titles. Information about an animal in the northern and the southern hemisphere is placed in columns on the left and right sides. Depending on where readers reside, the animals are familiar or new, but the facts are appealing, nonetheless.
Japanese macaques stay cozy by sitting in the local hot springs. Their counterparts in Tanzania, Africa feed their chicks "red milk." Can you guess the kind of bird? If those living in the northern hemisphere have never seen a dam built by an American beaver, make it a goal. Hoatzins build nests over the water on platforms. That must be a sight to see around the Amazon River.
Birds in both hemispheres dance to attract mates different times of the year. Others have forms of armor for protection. Who knew a kind of beetle and turtle shared something in common? In September, we discover the truth about Portuguese man-of-war and springbok pronking. Some animal residents on this planet are moving annually in order to survive in a more favorable climate or to travel to breeding grounds. The thousands of miles they travel is astonishing.
In anticipation of a slowing down of life or possible shortages, animals in the north and south use skills to hibernate and act as vessels for food. Honeypot ants, found in Central Asia, eat more than the average amount of nectar . . .
their bellies swell up like balloons.
Animals around the world are usually on the move in their search for food. Sometimes they move from high country to low country as the seasons change. Did you know elephants will travel sixty miles in their search for food? Animals, individually or as a collective whole, are remarkable, season to season, year after year.
Through the words of Sandra Morris, we move from north to south, above and below the equator, across countries and continents learning about the range of animals residing there. After her enriching introduction, each month supplies us with knowledge about birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and fish. Fascinating physical characteristics, eating habits, homes, breeding, and the care and raising of the young are presented. Every page turn will leave readers amazed. Here is a title, the companion sentence, a statement about an animal in the southern hemisphere, and a portion of the longer discussion.
Many creatures require tough exoskeletons, shells, or carapaces to protect
them from predators, battles with rivals, or even their environment.
Female leatherback turtles come ashore
on special nights to lay their eggs on
sandy beaches in Papua New Guinea, the
Solomon Islands, and the Florida coast.
(Pacific, Atlantic & Indian Oceans)
Leatherback turtles are protected by a
bony plate under their skin, hence the
name "leatherback." They live in many
oceans, as far north as Alaska and as
far south as the Cape of Good Hope,
and spend most of their lives at sea,
eating mainly jellyfish.
On the open and matching dust jacket and book case, readers gain a preview of the animals' lives examined within the pages of the book. The main title text placed in the large compass is a stunning display enhanced by the colorful wildlife circling it. The blue canvas, perhaps representing the oceans of the world, crosses the spine to the back, left, of the jacket and case. There, another compass holds a single sentence blurb of the book. Silhouettes of all twenty-four animals encircle this compass. Flora and fauna frame the ISBN at the bottom.
In turquoise and cream on the opening and closing endpapers, we find a world map providing us with views of the continents and oceans. A compass is placed in the lower left-hand corner. Silhouettes of the animals, in several distinct hues, are presented with a dotted line drawn from them to their country of residence. In a beautiful design with black and gray on cream, the title text and compass stand alone on the title page. On the verso, dedication, and contents pages, we are treated to more artistic depictions of creatures.
These illustrations by Sandra Morris rendered
in watercolor and salt
are realistic, many of them highly animated. We are brought close to the featured creatures. The canvases on which they are placed blend from one hemisphere to the other hemisphere. Beneath the larger columns of facts on the left and right sides are small world maps with a red dot indicating the place where the animals are found. We are also shown their conservation status.
One of my many favorite illustrations is for the month of February titled:
These illustrations for all the months extend from two-thirds of a page on the left to two-thirds of a page on the right. In this image, the banner citing Northern Hemisphere---Southern Hemisphere shifts in shades of blue to hues of pink. It divides the page in half horizontally with a slight rise in the center. On the top half is a group of four Japanese macaques. We only see portions of their top halves and faces. Their eyes are closed as they savor the warmth in a thermal pool. In the bottom half are three adult flamingoes. Surrounding their feet is a large group of chicks. They are all enjoying a lake in Tanzania.
This book, North & South: A Tale Of Two Hemispheres written and illustrated by Sandra Morris, allows readers to expand their world view through the portrayed animals. They journey beyond their particular community to other places through the seasons and months. This title has applications in the study of times during the year, animal adaptations, and how to protect animals. At the close of the book is a two-page glossary, index, and extra information on further reading and how you can help. I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about Sandra Morris, please visit the site linked to her name. Sandra Morris has an account on Instagram. Sandra Morris, a resident of New Zealand, is interviewed at The Sapling The Mahy Questionaire: Sandra Morris.
Today, a contractor, working on bringing the roof of my recently acquired pergola to code, removed a large robin's nest. He set it down on the edge of the fireplace. Completely intact, it has weathered multiple torrential rains and howling high winds. Carefully molded to hold eggs and the adult bodies, it is feat of design and development. In Animal Architects (Beach Lane Books, September 7, 2021) written by Amy Cherrix with illustrations by Chris Sasaki, through astounding information and striking images, we learn of other feats of design and development by our animal companions on this planet.
Did you know the natural
world is a construction zone?
Whether they are large or small,
in the ocean or on land, animals
are amazing architects!
Four pages are devoted to each of eleven captivating and innovative structures. What will these tell us about the animals who made them? What can we learn from them?
Beneath the waters of the Coral Sea, small beings have been working for thousands of years to form the Great Barrier Reef. Can you imagine a size so big; it can be seen in outer space? Back on land, another tiny being fashions a trap out of silk. Unsuspecting insects become meals.
There is a male bird who builds a home, then decorates it to attract a mate. There are birds living in Antarctica who as a pair gather pebbles annually to assemble something special. Wow! You'll never guess how many prairie dogs lived in the largest recorded prairie dog town.
Brick-forming termites, brick by brick, build towers which due to their unique shape are nature's own specialized HVAC systems. Clever carrier snails use their specifically created type of glue to fool predators by building a body shield. In mere minutes, a beaver can fell a tree used in construction of a dam. The next time you are strolling through a field, the object you see is not a tennis ball among the grass, but a carefully constructed suspended home. Phenomenal minds and phenomenal bodies have built the best.
For each of these eleven beings, author Amy Cherrix creates a conversational, two-part revelation. Her first few sentences end with an unfinished sentence, a pause. After the page turn, we discover what the animals have built, or what they intend to do. It is an enticing cadence. To heighten the appeal, descriptive adjectives and alliteration supply an added rhythm. Within each of these two parts, Amy Cherrix includes facts certain to astound readers. Here are three sentences after the page turn about ants.
Deep in their underground home, the ants dig
a roller-coaster network of tunnels and trails.
Together, these industrious insects can remove
2,205 pounds of earth per year.
That's a ton of dirt!
In a visually stunning array, the matching and open dust jacket and book case feature two themes, one of architectural blueprints and vibrant portraits of flora and fauna on a crisp white canvas. On both the front, right, and back, left, the text is framed as it would be on a blueprint with stylized lettering. The animals on the back and front are different and represent six of those showcased in the book. On the spine a tiny honeybee separates the last name of the author and the illustrator. On the back the ISBN is placed inside a tree stump.
On the opening and closing endpapers, the blueprint theme is continued, but it is almost like a naturalist's notebook, holding what has been seen or collected. There we see grasses. seaweed, leaves, flowers, mushrooms, shells, an acorn, a tree ring, and some animals. On the closing endpapers, part of the arrangement, on the left, is replaced with backmatter text. Opposite the verso, in blueprint paper, is the title page. This canvas is white with blue lettering. Ants are the highlighted individuals, moving among mushrooms, grasses, and twigs.
These images by Chris Sasaki are destined to have readers stopping at page turns. Rendered digitally, they are full of texture and gorgeous hues on a matte-finished paper. When he takes us underwater, it is as if we are swimming among the fish. On land, we wait with the trapdoor spider in darkness. We feel the deep chill of the Antarctic habitat and the impressive achievement of the beaver.
Chris Sasaki alters his perspectives to draw us deeper into each animal's lives. He brings us close when necessary or pulls back to give us greater meaning. Sometimes we are looking down on a scene or given a cross-section. He, too, switches from double-page pictures to two horizontal panels, top and bottom with text in the middle to emphasize the narrative. Or perhaps, a single-page illustration might better serve the text.
One of my many favorite illustrations is the double-page picture of a close-up of ants at work. A pale green background highlights a row of bright flowers and mushrooms stretching from left to right. Short grass grows along the top of the ground. Along the bottom, Chris Sasaki gives us an underground view of the roots. On the right he brings us close to an ant hill with ants carrying dirt up the slope and down into the ground. We are also shown a cutaway of the ant hill.
Readers will find themselves pausing either for the interesting information or eye-catching images or for both as they read Animal Architects written by Amy Cherrix with illustrations by Chris Sasaki. At the close of the book is a list of selected sources, books and other media. You'll want to add this title to both your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about Amy Cherrix and Chris Sasaki and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names. Amy Cherrix has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Chris Sasaki has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website you can view interior images and the complete jacket and case.
Posted by Xena's Mom at 10:28 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
Handheld Hilarity 3
Reading a newsletter yesterday written by a soon-to-be-published romance author, who is also a master teacher and friend, two words tied her series of thoughts together. Those two words, silver linings, ask us to look beyond our current circumstances. When we seek silver linings, they will reveal themselves to us. Sometimes they are a tiny sliver. Other times, they are huge, life-changing moments.
For many of us, books which make us grin or giggle, or guffaw are the silver linings every time we read them. They are silver linings which never fail us. When a character returns to a series of books, it means more fun is in the offing. We first met him eight years ago in Crankenstein and again in A Crankenstein Valentine. He has returned in Trick Or Treat, Crankenstein (Little, Brown And Company, August 17, 2021) written by Samantha Berger with illustrations by Dan Santat. In this newest entry, a beloved holiday is not as it should be.
Do you know what today is?
Crankenstein knows what today is.
It's a day that rhymes with Schmalloween, and
it's Crankenstein's FAVORITE day of the year.
His first inkling the day is awry is a throbbing toothache. It goes downhill further when his brother fails to recognize his costume identity. And just when he thinks it can't get any worse, it does. No one mentions a raging rainstorm was coming.
Every activity at school to celebrate the holiday is off kilter. What are the chances of someone else having the same costume and standing next to Crankenstein in the parade? That night in his neighborhood trick-or-treating, someone is handing out toothbrushes instead of candy. What kind of person does that?
Some other neighbor has a weird idea of frightening decorations. Crankenstein is not happy at being scared. Back home, finally, his sly brother is swiping his candy. What has happened to
Crankenstein's FAVORITE day of the year?
Wait! Is that the doorbell ringing? Opening the door, Crankenstein is shocked at what he sees. He bursts out laughing. He keeps on laughing when he sees a lot more great minds who think alike.
This author, Samantha Berger, knows comedy. She understands how delighted readers are in the contrast between the expected and the reality. AND either through experience or observation, she has included the perfect pairs of opposites. Initially, she creates a rhythm through the use of the word
bringing it back to great effect at the close of the story. She then establishes another cadence which increases Crankenstein's grit-your-teeth frustration and our rib-tickling laughter. Here is a passage.
EXCEPT---when his brother doesn't know
WHAT he's supposed to be, and laughs till he falls
off the couch.
Crankenstein would say,
Look at the front, right side of the dust jacket! Everything screams Halloween and not any ordinary Halloween. This is a Halloween gone wrong. There are webs in the title text with a black spider dangling between the K and O. Bats fly around Crankenstein on an orange background. The handle on his treat bag is ripped, spilling his collected candy. His signature reply to his fateful events is carved into the jack-o-lantern. Crankenstein's face allows for no denying his current mood. To the left, on the back, in shades of gray is a silhouette of Crankenstein shouting his displeasure. Across Crankenstein's form is a toothbrush with a jack-o-lantern, TRICK or TREAT tag hanging from the handle. Adding insult to injury along the handle it reads:
Dr. Spooner DDS 555-9874
On the book case, on a cream background, is Crankenstein. On the front he is facing us in his
ROBO AVENGER COSTUME
with all the parts labeled. On the back Crankenstein has turned his back to us. Four parts of his costume not previously shown are labeled.
You cannot, I repeat cannot, just glance at the opening and closing endpapers. Illustrator, Dan Santat, has fashioned a collage of enlarged candy. Each of the candies have been renamed to depict the spookiness of Halloween. The wrappers are familiar, but the names are decidedly not. Have you had
Imbibe The Spectrum!
Even some of the information on the verso has been "Halloweened."
Each of the double-page illustrations (and a group of smaller panels) were rendered in Adobe Photoshop. All the scenes inside Crankenstein's home depict a love of his favorite holiday. There are ghoulish lamps and lampshades, and Halloween cups, glasses, bowls, placemats, pillows, and blankets. The exaggerated facial expressions will have you grinning from ear to ear. For most of the pictures, we are close to the action. We are a part of this story.
One of my many favorite illustrations is the only panoramic setting. Across most of the two pages are hues of green formed into a corn maze. Four costumed classmates of Crankenstein are gleefully running down several pathways on the left. Across the top of the page is a gray sky with a smattering of darker rain clouds and some parked vehicles on the right. On the bottom of the image, to the right of the gutter (with one arm crossing the gutter), is a scarecrow. He is looking grim. Where is Crankenstein you ask? Two arms with clenched fists extend straight up in a row on the right. Above those arms in a speech balloon is a visual of an angry face. Crankenstein is lost!
Guaranteed to make you smile at the least and surely laugh out loud, Trick Or Treat, Crankenstein written by Samantha Berger with illustrations by Dan Santat is a feast of fun. Readers will relate to the mishaps but will be pleasantly surprised by the conclusion. Treat yourself to a copy for your professional and personal bookshelves.
To discover more about Samantha Berger and Dan Santat and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the link attached to their names. Samantha Berger has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Dan Santat has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Many individuals use meal preparation as an act of love or as an artistic expression. There are a few others, a very few, harboring an ulterior motive. One such fellow is found in Chez Bob (Little, Brown And Company, September 21, 2021) written and illustrated by Bob Shea. This alligator has a voracious appetite but is loath to exert himself. What he lacks in energy and ambition, he more than makes up for it in ingenuity.
Bob worked very
hard at being lazy.
"Being lazy is making me very hungry,"
said Bob to no one.
Bob hopes his request for birds to fly directly into his mouth will work. They flee with haste. He then observes how grass entices birds to it because of its seeds. Like the proverbial lightning strike, Bob has a plan.
His long snout will house a birdseed restaurant. It will be so successful, other alligators will want to purchase his idea. He will be wealthy, but most importantly, he will no longer be hungry.
The first bird at Chez Bob is impressed. Bob has to let him go rather than eat him. He is going to spread the word about the delectable meal on the menu. Chez Bob is an international success. Before long, a community surrounds Bob and his restaurant. There is a school for the youngsters and a library for everyone. As a member, new member, of this flock, Bob participates in a service project. He joins a book club? Oh, Bob!
Mother Nature exerts her will. Bob has a huge decision to make. Birds or breakfast? What could possibly be worth more than fame and fortune?
When author Bob Shea pens a story, his keen sense of humor shines in every sentence. His blend of narrative and Bob's personal voice and thoughts is true and perfectly paced. The hilarity escalates with Bob acting and saying one thing and thinking about consuming the birds at the same time. Then, in the best possible manner, a dilemma is presented. It is a heightened what-if moment. Readers will appreciate the choices made by both Bobs. Here is a portion of one passage and the following two sentences.
"Oh, then I will not eat you,"
"What?" said the bird.
"I said, 'So nice to meet you,' "
And he couldn't wait to meet
the bird's tasty friends.
Soon Chez Bob was
the talk of the trees.
Birds flew in from all
over the world to eat
on Bob's face.
(Please note I am working with an F & G. I was hoping to have a copy this week, but unfortunately, they have been delayed. The anticipation grows.)
The expression on Bob the alligator's face on the right side of the open dust jacket has me laughing out loud every time I see it. That smirky grin with one hand attempting to cover it is priceless. Bob salting the bird as the bird salts its seeds is over-the-top comical. The choice of the teal canvas makes Bob and the bird shine.
On the left, back of the dust jacket, Bob is seated on a navy background. Birds are around him, his hat, and his face. It is movie night. On the end of his nose is the screen. Bob is scooping popcorn into his mouth as birds nibble what is on the ground.
On a spring green canvas with short yellow and blue blades of grass, birds of a variety of colors gather on the opening endpapers. On the far left, a pink worm looks at the group of birds aghast. With the same background, the closing endpapers tell a different tale. It is a blur of bicycles, birds, and Bob . . . on a bicycle. The verso and title pages present a double-page picture of Bob lazily resting on the edge of the water with the jungle flora and fauna around him.
The color palette of blues, greens, purple, yellow, pink and white welcomes readers to the story. The images, double-page pictures and single-page pictures, are highly animated. When Bob opens his mouth, he opens it WIDE! The tiny details in some of the scenes ask readers to pause. There are birds in lounge chairs around a pond. There are birds riding on a roller coaster. There is a tiny bus with two passengers and a capped driver.
One of my favorite illustrations is when Bob is taking his patrons on a sunset dinner. Among the lily pads, some flowers holding candles, are a frog happily waving as Bob passes and a turtle rowing a boat nearby. Bob, mostly above the beautifully hued water, is wearing his chef's hat, eyeing his customers, and smiling. Across his back are tiny tables with red-and-white-checked tablecloths. Pairs of birds are seated, enjoying their birdseed meals and chirping conversationally.
Sometimes when the best-laid plans shift in their results, so do personalities. Our protagonist in Chez Bob written and illustrated by Bob Shea is a prime example. Innocence can soften the cleverest and hungriest heart. If you are looking for a title replete with laughs that lead toward newfound friendship, this book comes highly recommended for both your personal and professional collections.
To learn more about Bob Shea and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website. Bob Shea has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This title is featured at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's wondrous Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. There are many process pieces there to see.
UPDATE: Please enjoy this interview with Bob Shea about this title at Max's Boat on September 16, 2021.
Bob Shea Presents CHEZ BOB from LB School on Vimeo.
Book Chat with the Illustrator: Bob Shea for CHEZ BOB from LB School on Vimeo.
Posted by Xena's Mom at 8:38 PM 0 comments
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