Quote of the Month

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

Friday, October 15, 2021

Forming Fast Friendships

Lasting friendships are built on rock-solid foundations with flexibility abilities, like buildings able to withstand hurricanes or earthquakes.  These relationships weather situations involving mistrust, betrayal, inattentiveness, lack of communication (unvoiced expectations), and lies.  By contrast certainty, loyalty, respect, an open exchange of ideas and information, and truth strengthen the bonds between individuals.  No amount of time seems to break the connections between these kindred spirits.

Sometimes one of most difficult things to do is mend a crack.  Taking responsibility for your mistake and correcting it is no easy task.  I'm Sorry (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, September 7, 2021) written by Michael Ian Black with illustrations by Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the fifth collaboration between these two talented individuals.  Sometimes when we've said or done something unkind, we want to rewind immediately.

are you okay?

Potato hurt my feelings.

A little girl, friend to truest friends, Flamingo and Potato, offers to chat with Potato.  She does not want the twosome to be apart.  Within seconds, Potato realizes saying mean things is not acceptable between best buddies.

When the girl says she knows what to do, Potato wonders if making a sandwich for Flamingo will help.  No, but an apology is probably the best idea.  Potato thinks running away to Antarctica would be better.  He has two other ideas that are not apologies.  

The girl insists Potato has to say 

I'm sorry

to Flamingo.  The girl continues to reason with Potato, finally leaving the spud alone to think.  Later when Potato finds the girl and Flamingo playing, his disguise does not fool Flamingo.  

Flamingo and the girl sit down to wait as Potato struggles to say what must be said.  A sudden outburst lets loose a flood of remorse.  Shared conversations between first Flamingo and Potato, then all three lead to a renewed sense of adventure among compassionate companions.

The sentences penned by Michael Ian Black are exactly as one would expect children to speak to each other.  They are simple and direct, getting to the heart of each character's emotional moods.  Suggestions by the girl, reasonable and rational, are offered in the spirit of someone who is observing two friends at odds.  Children, more times than not, offer the best kind of solutions.  A child's heart sees the world as it should be seen.  Michael Ian Black reveals this in the words in this story told through dialogue.  Here is a passage.

Hi, Potato.


Whose fault is it
when you say mean things?

Mine!  It's all my


Readers can readily see by the open and matching dust jacket and book case, beloved characters, the girl, the flamingo, and the potato, have returned.  One is clearly disgruntled, another is upset by their behavior, and the third is offering assistance.  Flamingo and Potato, pink and brown, remain the same.  The color scheme on the girl is basically the same, yellow, blue, and pink.  Her clothing styles shift as does her footwear in this title compared to the previous books.   The characters and title text are slightly raised and varnished.

On the back, to the left of the spine, the canvas remains as a lighter green.  There the author and illustrator names appear with words from Potato.  He is trying, initially unsuccessful, to say he is sorry.

On the opening and closing endpapers, in the same green, Potato appears.  First is the enlarged contraction next to him on the right side, 


At the end, in letters stretching from left to right and top to bottom, is the word


Potato is placed in the center of the O, yelling.

On the verso and dedication page, the text is designed to mirror the face of a sorry Potato.  Most of the words form Potato's eyes.  The dedications are Potato's anxious frown.  

These digitally rendered illustrations by Debbie Ridpath Ohi are lively, bright, and detailed.  Layers are used with excellent effect, adding brilliance to some shades with others more faded. (When Potato is wondering, Potato and the girl are bright, but the other items are lighter variations of the same shade.)  Black silhouettes are also employed superbly.

Images span two pages, edge to edge, single pages within loose geometric shapes, and single pages, edge to edge.  Debbie Ridpath Ohi varies the perspective for dramatic emphasis.  Her pictures are tender and charming, endearing readers to the girl, Potato, and Flamingo.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a smaller picture on a single page.  The girl is listening as Potato is telling her how hard it is to say

I'm sorry. 

On an area of grass Potato is speaking to the left of the girl.  She is kneeling on the grass with her soccer ball next to her.  On tall blades of grass is an insect as curious of the girl as she is of it.  She has an open insect book on her lap.  I love that she has had this book in her pocket throughout the story.  This is a little additional pictorial story.

All the books in this series are exemplary.  I'm Sorry written by Michael Ian Black with illustrations by Debbie Ridpath Ohi will resonate with readers of all ages.  (Although the older you get, the easier it is to say I'm sorry because you realize, day by day, how short life is.  Time is too precious to waste.)  This is a book to be read often and shared widely.  I can already hear the discussions it will raise.  Make sure to have at least one copy in your professional collections and one copy on your personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Debbie Ridpath Ohi and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Michael Ian Black has an account on Twitter.  Debbie Ridpath Ohi has accounts on Facebook, InstagramTwitter, and YouTubeAt the publisher's website you can view interior images and the dust jacket.  There is an interview with Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Math Is Everywhere about this title.

The day will always come when the thing a friend needs the most is your presence.  Your presence is a sign of unquestionable support.  Your presence, without you uttering a single syllable, says where you go, I go.  Two pals we met in Stick and Stone have returned in another heartwarming happening.  Stick and Stone Best Friends Forever (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 7, 2021) written by Beth Ferry with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld follows the duo as they embark on a special search of great importance.



A friendship full-grown.

They have no idea where their search will take them.  Stick seeks his family tree.  He is eager to find his residence of origin.  Where was his branch attached?  Stone is ready

Hills lead them into forests.  Valleys lead them over running water.  Both lead them to the highest mountains.  Unfortunately, Stick can't seem to locate the all-important tree.

When Stick tries to describe it to Stone, the portrait he paints with his words is like all trees.  Stone thinks this is funny.  Before long, the pair are lost in the darkest part of a woods.  Every sound and every shadow fill them will dread.

The last sound reveals a welcome surprise.  Two plus one equals a compass, a guide, to help them get home.  Stick is sad they were unable to find his family three, but Stone replies with the exact words Stick needs to hear.  That, after all, is what friends to the end truly are.

A delightful cadence created with rhyming words by Beth Ferry asks readers to join in Stick's and Stone's journey.  Sentence by sentence in a blend of narrative and dialogue, the quest continues.  As they search, but don't find the family tree subtle tension grows.  This makes the revelation even more desirable.  It also brings us to the beautiful moments Stick and Stone share on the final pages.  Here is a passage.

They hear something scurry.
"C'mon, Stick.  Let's hurry."
"Was that a bear?"
Was it a snake?"
"It might be a monster."

The scene on the front, ride side, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, continues over the spine.  Not only can we tell Stick and Stone are out and about in the wilderness, but their facial expressions tell us of their combined joy.  Don't you just love how Stick is paddling the canoe!

To the left, on the back, the canvas switching to a lighter shade of stone surrounds Stick and Stone.  Stick holds a maple and oak leaf, speculating on a possible family tree.  Stone to the right looks affectionately at the broken branch.

On the opening and closing endpapers, teal is used as a background color.  A happy pattern is made with Stick and various leaves sprouting from Stick's upper portion.  More than thirty trees are featured.  Labels appear next to the leaves.

These illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld rendered

in pen, watercolor, colored pencil, PanPastels, and Neocolor oil pastels on Mi-Teintes paper with a bit of Photoshop to fix the mistakes

span two pages, edge to edge, and full pages, edge to edge.  The background colors shift to indicate the time of day, the place, and the emotional mood of the characters.  The use of hues of blue, golden yellow, and green fashion a lasting warmth.

We are keenly aware of every mood of the characters by their facial expression, their eyes, and their body postures.  The details Tom Lichtenheld includes are absolutely adorable.  For the words

A friendship full-grown,

Tom Lichtenheld has Stick measuring Stone's height on the door frame, pencil in hand.  Before the search begins, Stick is reading a tree identification book with Stone.  At the top of the mountain peak, capped with snow, Stone is wearing a knitted hat.  Readers will also enjoy seeing the other wildlife displayed in the images.

One of my many favorite illustrations is at the beginning of the expedition.  Stone and Stick are on the edge of a grassy cliff.  Stretching before them are hilly, tree-studded forests.  A golden and blue sky with a few clouds appears endless.  Stick is standing on top of Stone.  In Stick's hand is the eyepiece to a telescope.  The telescope is very, very long.  The last portion of it rests in the "v" formed by a tree branch jutting out from the cliff.

Readers will be ready to reread this book, Stick and Stone Best Friends Forever written by Beth Ferry with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld, as soon as it is finished.  Their friendship is the kind everyone needs.  Perhaps, readers and listeners will wander and find their very own stick and stone to hold in their hands as the story is read.  I know you will want this companion title on both your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Beth Ferry has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Tom Lichtenheld has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld are interviewed about this book at Maria Marshall's site.  Beth Ferry is interviewed at The Children's Book Review about this title.

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