Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Sweet Dreams

As the sun drops below the horizon and the light of day fades, darkness deepens.  For many, animals and humans, it signals a slowing and eventual rest.  This daily slowing and rest happen on a grander scale for much longer when autumn shifts to winter.  For months, the time of light is shorter and nights are longer.  It is nature asking the world to pause and replenish. 

Children are not always eager to rest, especially at bedtime.  They have their reasons, perfectly valid to them, for staying awake as long as possible.  Time For Bed, Old House (Candlewick Press, September 28, 2021) written by Janet Costa Bates with artwork by AG Ford presents a charming nightly routine.  

ISAAC LOVED THE NEW PAJAMAS he got for his first
sleepover at Grandpop's house.  He loved laughing and
playing with Grandpop.  But he didn't love the thought
of sleeping away from home. 

When Isaac said he wasn't sleepy, Grandpop was okay with him being awake.  They did need to put the house to bed, though.  This was something new for Isaac.

Grandpop said they needed to be quiet and move slowly.  They needed to turn off the lights to make it darker.  Isaac was a bit spooked by the sound of Snuffles' nails clicking on the floor.  

Then the trio, Grandpop, his dog, and Isaac, moved down the hallway.  Another sound startled Isaac, but after looking outside he was relieved.  They pulled down the shades at the windows.  (Of what does this remind you?)

Up the stairs they went as the house settled, creaking.  In the bedroom, Isaac's mother's old room, he picked out a story to read to the house.  Isaac could only read the pictures.  When he finished, nestled in Grandpop's lap, he realized Grandpop was sound asleep.  Each thing he did with his grandfather, Isaac now completed within the room until another sound could be heard.

Readers immediately warm to Grandpop because author Janet Costa Bates gives him a compassionate heart.  As he and his grandson move about the house performing tasks to put it to bed, the number of tasks mingles with the trio of sounds to make a soothing cadence.  The blend of narrative and conversation allows us to understand both the boy and his grandfather and their deeply affectionate relationship.  Here is a passage.

Creak. Creak. Creak.
"What's that noise?" asked Isaac. (page turn)

"This old house makes sleepy sounds, just like you," said
Grandpop.  "You yawn.  You stretch.  I bet you even snore." 

"I don't think I snore," said Isaac.

Grandpop shrugged.  "But if you're sleeping, how do you
know?"  He chuckled loudly, then caught himself and put
his hand over his mouth.  . . .

The serenity, security, and warmth shown on the front, right side, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case wraps around readers like a beloved blanket.  The shadows from the soft glow of the lamp further create a cozy atmospheric scene.  Grandpop, Isaac, Bear, and Snuffles are the very picture of nighttime peace.  Look how Isaac has his finger to his lips to quiet the clock's chiming.

To the left, on the back, a circular image is placed on a background of dusty blue.  It is Grandpop's house.  He and Isaac are standing on the front porch waving.  Behind the house the sky is awash in the colors of a setting sun.  This is a cropped version of the double-page picture for the title page.

That visual includes the surrounding lawn and forested countryside.  Isaac's parents are driving down the driveway, his Mom leaning out the window and waving.  Grandpop's blue truck sits next to the house.  The backyard has a high white-picket fence around it.

Snuffles makes an appearance on the opening and closing endpapers on a pale yellow canvas.  In the first, he is walking to the right edge.  In the second, he is curled and fast asleep in his bed on the left.

These heartwarming images by AG Ford rendered in 


are two-page pictures, full-page visuals or two or three smaller illustrations grouped on a single page.  AG Ford takes us sometimes close to Isaac and Grandpop and other times gives us a larger view of the inside of a room.  The faces of Isaac and Grandpop sparkle with light and emotion in every scene.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when Grandpop and Isaac first enter the bedroom.  We are given a complete picture of the room.  It has a dresser with a mirror and a lamp and a stack of books on it, an iron bed with a quilt near a window, a floor lamp positioned between the bed and an easy chair with an end table.  An oval rag rug is on the wooden floor.  Grandpop, seated in the easy chair, is holding out a book to Isaac who holds Bear in his hand.  Snuffles is dragging a blanket across the floor as he heads toward his bed.  

Once you've read Time For Bed, Old House written by Janet Costa Bates with illustrations by AG Ford, you'll want to take the same journey around your home each night.  It is a habit worth forming and you'll want to have this book as the last thing you read before drifting into the sweetest of dreams.  I highly recommend this title for both your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Janet Costa Bates and AG Ford and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Janet Costa Bates has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  AG Ford has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.   At Penguin Random House you can view interior images.  Janet Costa Bates visits with librarian, lecturer at Rutgers, and writer John Schumacher at his site, Watch. Connect. Read.  Both the author and illustrator are featured at Maria Marshall's site as they speak about this title.

It can never be stated enough.  Having a canine companion exposes you to wonders of the world you might otherwise miss.  You witness enormous rings around a full moon in winter on nights so crisp the air feels like glass.  You are privy to stunning sunrises with clouds catching an array of red, orange, and yellow hues.  Fortunately my furry friend is used to pausing on our walks, so her human can enjoy what the night or day offers.  

Sometimes when the sun is rising on one horizon, the moon is shimmering above another horizon.  The Children's Moon (Scholastic Press, October 19, 2021) written by Carmen Agra Deedy with artwork by Jim LaMarche is a lovely explanatory tale about this splendid event.  Compromise, kindness, and friendship work wonders. 

There once was a time
when the sun alone ruled the day,
the moon graced the night,
and little children were put firmly to bed before sunset.   

And once it happened as the sun was rushing the moon away, she heard a sound which caressed her heart.  It was the laughter of children.  The next time the moon and sun passed each other, she implored him to tell her about children. 

She longed to have them see her, but the sun was not about to relinquish a moment of his day.  He finally told her what the world was like under his brilliance; its places, people, and animals were a thing of beauty.  She in turn told him how the world was under her glow.

Her discourse did not impress the sun until she talked about stars.  He was astonished there were so many others like him that he had never seen.  Together they accomplished something never previously done.

The sun was filled with gratitude.  A request was renewed.   A phenomenon was born.

Carmen Agra Deedy's storytelling skills shine in this story of the sun and moon.  For anyone who has felt pure joy at the sound children's laughter brings, they know its power.  It is this power which forms the basis of this tale of a solar eclipse and the wonder observed before and after each full moon. 

The majority of the narrative is formed through spirited dialogue between the sun and the moon.  It reveals their personalities and how each sees the day and the night.  In this way, they form an eternal friendship.  The word choices in these conversations are lyrical.  Here is a passage.

"Thank you," the sun whispered.
"Now," sang the moon, "will you please-please-please-with a comet on top
let me see the children?"
The sun nodded his fiery head.  "Of course.  But it's a poor trade, my friend.
I've seen the stars."

The shades of blue shown on the matching dust jacket and book case coupled with the sheen of the moon's light depict a breathtaking vision of peace and longing.  It is a two-page image spanning from the left edge on the back to the right edge on the front.  On the back large bunk beds hold three sleeping children, one on top and two on the bottom.  Child-drawn pictures of the sun are attached to the wall.  Coats and hats hang on the bed posts.  A pair of binoculars dangles from a peg on the wall.  The breeze blowing in the open window moves the curtain over the spine and to one of the bed posts.

The dog, on the front, probably holding his cherished tennis ball, has dropped it to gaze at the moon. Animals have a keen sense of understanding that which we cannot.  The moon and the title text are varnished on the jacket.

A bright turquoise covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page, the moon moves quickly across the sky, looking behind her.  She heard the laughter.  The roofs of homes are below her.

Jim LaMarche rendered these illustrations 

in acrylics and pencil on Arches watercolor paper.

Luminescent is a word which comes to mind when you look at each double-page picture in this book.  The use of light and shadow is superb.  The sun's brilliance casts warmth on each scene, whether it is a simple cottage in the country with a family welcoming the day, a meadow, a jungle, a grand city, or a field of sunflowers.  In contrast, the cool glimmer of the moon provides tranquility as the northern lights span from horizon to horizon, owls and bats fly in search of food, and fireflies and plankton give forth their own kind of light.

The intricate details will have readers pausing at each page turn.  They will enjoy the shift in perspectives, depending on the position of the sun or moon.  And they will delight in the facial expressions on both the moon and the sun. 

One of my many favorite illustrations is the two-page wordless picture.  Beginning in the upper, right-hand corner, a peak of a mountain invites our eyes to descend to another range in front of it.  Evergreen trees stand as tall as soldiers at attention.  In front of them are more huge boulders on the ground and a single evergreen tree.  A baby bear is climbing it.  The mother is seated on a nearby boulder.  On the other side of the gutter, to the left, another baby bear is climbing a rock.  They are looking to the left at a gorgeous expanse of sky.  The moon is passing in front of the sun.

As a bedtime story, as an introduction to a unit on folktales or a study of the sun and moon, this book, The Children's Moon written by Carmen Agra Deedy with illustrations by Jim LaMarche is excellent.  At the close of the book is more about "the children's moon" and how to see it, as well as phases of the moon.  There is also a page devoted to Strange & Wonderful Facts about the Moon.  Please make sure to have a copy on all your bookshelves.

To learn more about Carmen Agra Deedy and her other work, please access her website by following the link attached to her name.  Carmen Agra Deedy has an account on Facebook.  Carmen Agra Deedy and this book are celebrated at librarian, lecturer, and writer John Schumacher's site, Watch. Connect. Read.

Northern Michigan was coated in at least five inches of snow Sunday and Sunday evening.  It is currently snowing in spurts between bursts of sunshine with another three to four inches expected by tomorrow morning.  It would seem that winter has finally arrived.  Our morning walks have been quieter except for the crows, chickadees, and cardinals.  Rabbits and the neighborhood fox leave tracks we can now see.

The changing of the seasons and the response of our animal residents is a constant source of fascination.  Winter Lullaby (Candlewick Press, December 7, 2021) written by Dianne White with artwork by Ramona Kaulitzki allows us to see how a variety of animals prepare for winter.  It follows one little bear who is not quite ready for slumber.  Let's join this youngster and his mother on a stroll through the forest.

Cool winds blow through graying skies.
Geese are honking long goodbyes.
Autumn clouds sweep overhead.
Let's go, Small Bear.  It's time for bed.

Small Bear sees a mouse and a chipmunk bounce in and out of view.  If they are awake, why must he sleep?  Mama replies each is hurrying toward their earned rest.  One buries nuts in a snug nook and the other will cuddle in a delicate nest.

As mother and child journey, Skunk and Hare race across a carpet of leaves.  If they are awake, why must Small Bear sleep?  They are playing until Skunk goes below the surface of the ground and Hare slumbers in an empty hollow.

Badger and Raccoon are observed.  Where will they go when it snows?  If they are awake, why must this child go to bed?  Mama patiently answers, naming the homes of each one.  

Small Bear does not want to go into the den.  Mama explains why they cannot remain in the winter weather.  She gives Small Bear promises of future fun.  Cub and mother curl as one.

When you read the words, silently or aloud, penned by Dianne White, you find yourself quietly humming.  Each rhyming couplet acts as a verse in a winter song, a song of silence, an interlude between seasons. An inviting rhythm is made by the back-and-forth conversation between Mama and Small Bear.  In the final pages, when it is simply the two of them, the trust and affection grow stronger as questions are asked and answered.  Dianne White uses the technique of storytelling three expertly when the cub notices two animals three times.  Here is a passage, one of Small Bear's questions and Mama's reply.

Badger pauses in the light.
Where will she spend this frosty night?  . . .

Badger will settle---soon, not yet---
tucked inside her chambered sett.  . . .

The ambience fashioned by illustrator Ramona Kaulitzki for the open and matching dust jacket and book case is one of a serene transformation between autumn and winter.  A single image covers both the left, back, and right, front, of the jacket and case.  A gray and golden yellow sky releases flakes of snow on layered rolling hills.  Snow-covered evergreens dot the hills.  In the foreground two trees, one on the far right and the other just left of the spine, are still holding their golden leaves.  On either side of the spine, a shrub has a few leaves left.  Mama and Small Bear walk through the gathering snow, already in conversation.  The title text and several of the large snowflakes are varnished on the front of the jacket.

On the opening and closing endpapers, a pattern is made with a radiate orange wash.  It is a blend of single snowflakes and leaves.  They both seem to be falling.  With a page turn, we see the title page.  Winter has arrived in the woods, indicated by the snowy view.  Large lacy snowflakes tumble on the already blanketed ground, trees branches, and evergreen boughs.



the image sizes alternate between two-page pictures, edge to edge, single-page pictures, edge to edge, and several smaller images on crisp white backgrounds.  Most of those on the white canvases bring us close to Small Bear and Mama focusing on their affection and intimacy.  The next thing readers will notice is how Small Bear and Mama move through the story to their den.

As they come to a river, Mama secures a boat so she can row to the other shore.  A tiny red bird sits on the edge of the boat.  The animals asleep in their homes are close to the reader as the bears travel past them.  Mama carries Small Bear on her shoulders or under her arm.  They are often holding paws.  What careful readers will notice is that in nearly all of the illustrations elements curve or compose a circle to give a sense of comfort.  It is also interesting to note we see the shadows of geese flying on the opening picture and they are in full color between the text for the dedication and publication information on the final page.  Full circle.

Aptly named, this book, Winter Lullaby written by Dianne White with illustrations by Ramona Kaulitzki, is certain to hush the most restless reader into their precious dreams.  It is a prelude to hibernation for the bears and their forest friends.  It is a book you'll need on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Dianne White and Ramona Kaulitzki and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Dianne White has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Ramona Kaulitzki has accounts on Facebook, Behance, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior illustrations.

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