Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

From Wild Windy Weather

In mere seconds, a calm solstice evening, December 21, 2021, turns into one with winds gusting over thirty-five miles per hour.  The gently falling snow is now dancing across yards and shaking colored lights hanging from roof tops, porches, trees, and bushes.  Wind chimes are singing from house to house.  The brisk breeze whistles around pipes and chimneys.

Wind is both a best friend and a mortal enemy.  Two book titles this past autumn highlight the havoc it wreaks when it is at its worst.  They also disclose how something wonderful can rise from the damage like a phoenix.  Hurricane (Little, Brown and Company, September 28, 2021) written and illustrated by John Rocco asks us to see that a storm can be the impetus for using the best tools we have, our collective hearts.

This is my dock.
Really, it's the neighborhood's dock,
but nobody ever comes here except me.

This dock stretches into a river fed by the sea.  In this space, a boy swims, watches water creatures move under and around the dock, fishes, and catches crabs.  It is, as you might imagine, his favorite place.

One day as he returns home from the dock, his neighborhood is not the same.  At his house, his dad tells him a hurricane is coming.  That night, as the wind and rain batter the sides and windows of the boy's home, he worries about the river, now coming down the street, taking it away.

In the morning, all is quiet as the boy heads down to the dock.  His neighborhood is transformed.  So is his dock.  It all looks as though a fierce beast roamed at will.

When the neighbors are too busy to help him with his dock, he helps them.  He then decides to rebuild the dock himself.  One day of working on his dock leads to another day and then another day leads to another day.  When he feels as though the job is too much for one boy, something unexpected happens.  Something wonderful.  Something remembered.

We are immediately drawn into this story by author John Rocco through the first person point of view.  The boy gives us answers in his narration.  He tells us why the dock is his favorite place.  He presents us with real feelings, real situations prior to the hurricane, and an intense description of the hurricane's arrival and force.  The next morning and in the subsequent days, we willingly follow what the boy says because we understand loss, his loss and his determination to recreate his favorite place.  Here is a passage.  (This describes what many do to ease stress and uncomfortable events.)

I shut my eyes tight and try to sleep,
imagining what might wash up underneath my dock.

There are two different scenes on either side of the spine when you look at the open dust jacket.  On the front we are shown the boy, the narrator, with neighbors on either side of the shore as the hurricane approaches.  This illustration shows worry and fear at the unpredictability of weather.  The color palette reflects serenity and contentment on the back, to the left of the spine.

Here we see the boy, his back to us, walking down his dock.  The river on each side of the dock is almost like a mirror.  A seagull lands on one of the pilings to the left of the boy.  Ahead of the boy, in a blue sky, clouds puff up like cotton candy, the early morning light painting them.

On the book case is an expanded interior image.  The boy is nearly at the end of the dock lying on his stomach and looking down into the water over the left side.  An array of sea creatures are swimming toward, under, and past the dock.  These are what he imagines might be there as the hurricane rages on through the night.

The opening endpapers, in blue, white, and red, highlight the five categories of a hurricane.  A four-part diagram shows How a Hurricane Forms.  The Parts of a Dock are explained on the closing endpapers using brown, white, blue, and a bit of red.  Everything is labeled correctly and we are told how new pilings are placed into the bottom of the water.


pencil, watercolor, and digital color

John Rocco presents his illustrations in a series of horizontal panels on a single page, on two pages, edge to edge, or a combination of panels or two smaller images opposite a full-page picture.  To show the passage of time, smaller illustrations are grouped together.  Any dialogue is shown in small speech balloons.  The perspectives in each image are intimate and alternated to showcase that intimacy.  The boy's facial expressions and his body postures are realistic and enduring at the same time.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the above-noted text.  In the lower, left-hand corner, the boy, eyes closed, is tucked into his bed.  He is dreaming of his favorite dock and the beauty swimming around it.  There are turtles, dolphins, a ray, smaller fish, and one huge creature.

This up-close-and-personal look at a storm, this sensory experience by this boy, in Hurricane written and illustrated by John Rocco is memorable.  This boy and his love of his favorite place brings a community together.  It is in the heart of a child that all hearts are joined.  I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about John Rocco and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  John Rocco has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website there is a video discussion with John Rocco about the art for this book.

John Rocco Presents HURRICANE from LB School on Vimeo.

There is nothing quite so unsettling as having a lifelong sailor tell you it's time to put on a life jacket as you head from the Intercoastal Waterway into the Atlantic Ocean as a storm strikes.  The wind and waves toss the sailboat like a rubber ducky in a bathtub.  You realize, once again, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature.  Hope At Sea: An Adventure Story (Anne Schwartz Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books,  October 19, 2021) written and illustrated by Daniel Miyares is a tale of wanting, wondering, storms, and the eventual return of light.

Whenever my world feels small,
I turn to the sea.

The narrator of this story, a girl, longs to go to sea with her father, a ship's carpenter.  He is about to leave on another voyage on a new clipper ship.  She is determined to sail with him this time.  She is going to stow away.

Timing is everything.  Soon, she is tucked inside one of the lifeboats as the anchor is raised.  Under the tarp in the darkness, she begins to wonder about her decision.  And then. . . she is discovered!

Her father acclimates her to life at sea.  The work is not easy, but she begins to feel comfortable doing things which need to be done.  They travel for weeks from one destination and climate to another, adding cargo to the vessel.

Words and pictures fill her journal.  This is her story.  As they near home, a horrendous storm tosses the ship from gigantic wave to gigantic wave.  She is told to stay below, but she wants to help.  Every sailor's nightmare happens.  Rocks. Thunderous cracking as wood bends and breaks to the will of Mother Nature.  Will the lifeboats endure?  

When author Daniel Miyares begins this tale, we know an adventure is in the offing as soon as we read the first sentence.  From there, the protagonist shares her longing to set sail with her father.  She wants to be a part of this next sea story.  Short but highly descriptive sentences and phrases by the narrator bring us into this experience.  It is almost like reading entries in a diary or journal, page turn by page turn.

What we don't initially know, but is cleverly presented, is the girl's name is Hope.  This gives two distinct meanings to the word as it is used in her narrative.  It also leads us to a conclusion full of light.  Here is one of several outstanding passages.

There's no turning back now.  I can hear the
sails snap to attention and salute the wind as we
pick up speed.

In looking at the open dust jacket, we are presented with the best and worst moments of this bold undertaking.  On the front, the ship heading toward us in brisk winds, sails full, you can almost feel that breeze on your face, smell the salt in the air, and feel the pounding of Hope's happy heart.  The sky, clouds, waves with crests of foam, the details of the ship, and Hope's position all signify adventure with a capital A.  

To the left, on the back, waves as high as several stories, roll and rage.  The ship under the dark stormy sky with rain falling in torrents is riding up to the top of a wave.  It is small compared to the angry water.  The text here reads:

And in such a storm,
even hands as small as
mine are needed.

The canvas for the book case is cream.  Along the top is a red and cream diamond pattern. Along the bottom are arched lines in blue symbolizing waves.  On the left side, on the back, in an oval framed by a line (rope) and anchor is a formal portrait of Hope and her parents.  (Both parents play an important part in this story.)  On the right side, the front, underneath a nautical star is a ribbon woven around an anchor.  On the ribbon is the title text.  Two birds are holding either end of this ribbon.  They are swallows which are meaningful to sailors.

Both the opening and closing endpapers request readers to pause and study what they see.  Blue lines are placed on pale gray paper.  Intricate drawings of elements of value to the beginning and middle of the story appear on the first set.  Twenty-two items are labeled.  Without divulging the end of the story, the closing endpapers include fourteen labeled things.  They are either single objects or parts of an object.  The labels are handwritten on both the opening and closing endpapers.

These illustrations 

rendered in pen and ink with watercolor

by Daniel Miyares are exquisite in their detail and emotional impact.  They place us squarely in this time and in this place.  Color choices, the use of light and shadow, will have you stopping to take in every scene.  Each image, varied in size, extends the text by telling more of the story.  We are never told when Hope will stow away, but a picture tells us she sneaks out of the house dressed in a shirt and pants and hat as her parents are saying their final goodbyes at home.

Several of the wordless pictures, like the one where Hope is peeking out from under the canvas cover on the lifeboat, will take your breath away at their depiction of moods and emotions.  We are always aware of the vastness of the sea, the power of nature, and the size of the ship.

One of my many favorite pictures is a double-page image.  Spanning across both pages, perfectly aligned in the gutter is the clipper ship; its sails closed.  On the left side of the gutter, the ship sits under a cloudy, shades of gray, sky.  Large snowflakes drift down on sailors bundled in heavy coats and hats.  An iceberg juts out of the water at the back of the ship.  A whale's tail breaks from the water, silhouetted against the iceberg.  On the right side the ship is in the tropics.  The sky is blue with large fluffy clouds, partially pink.  The sailors are wearing lighter and less attire.  One jumps into the water from the front of the ship.  Others are hauling goods up in a net from a boat below them.  A single seagull flies overhead as if to make its way toward the rocky shore, grasses and palm trees.

Each time this book, Hope At Sea: An Adventure Story written and illustrated by Daniel Miyares, is read you will be uplifted by its ingenuity and conclusion.  Hope, like love, can be found in many places . . . if you are looking for it.  I can't imagine a personal or professional collection without a copy of this book.

By following the link attached to Daniel Miyares's name, you can learn more about him and his other work at his website.  Daniel Miyares has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.  At the publisher's website are interior illustrations to view.  Daniel Miyares and this book are highlighted at Picture Book Builders.  You will really enjoy this.

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