Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Sweet Dreams #2

For some reason, the move from daylight savings to standard time has been a struggle in 2021 (and 2022) for some individuals.  It seems the canine community, in this home and in the households of neighbors, is refusing the necessary adjustment.  Waking, walking, eating of meals, and sleeping remain on daylight savings hours.  This makes their humans' schedules a tad bit off every single day.  

This situation, coupled with my dog's acute awareness when a deer, fox, or rabbit happens to be nearby, has diminished our actual time of rest.  There is nothing like a dog's loud barking to make you sit upright out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night. . .or is there?  After reading Everybody In The Red Brick Building (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, October 12, 2021) written by Anne Wynter with illustrations by Oge Mora, it is apparent we are not alone. Uninterrupted bedtime rest is not necessarily the norm. 

Everybody in the red brick building was asleep.

The slumber of the people in the red brick building was suddenly disturbed by a loud vocal outburst by Baby Izzie.  It did not go unnoticed by Rayhan.  He was decidedly worried about his parrot. The startled bird let out a boisterous screech.

Those two unusual noises instigated a late night game by three pals during a sleepover.  (Did Natalia just shoot a rocket out her bedroom window?)  In short order, a cat made a mad dash from her sleeping space to the top of a car.  This action triggered the car's alarm.

Parental responses were swift.  The participants in these nighttime romps began to settle to a new set of sounds.  A street sweeper and falling acorns combined to begin a symphony.

A breeze created another melody.  A dozing feathered friend added harmony.  Like the very best of stories, this one circled back to the beginning.  

Author Anne Wynter writes with the sure knowledge of a storyteller.  Each time a new character is introduced, a clamorous noise is associated with them.  This noise is repeated with the additional commotions, adding layers and building toward the loudest sound, the car alarm in the street.  This technique is employed again as we circle back to the beginning.  Readers cannot help but participate in this late night awakening and lullaby.  Here is a passage.

Woken up by a WaaaAAH!,
a Rrack! Wake Up!,
and a Pitter patter STOMP!,
Natalia dropped from her bunk to
launch her brand-new light-up rocket.

As soon as you look at the matching dust jacket and book case, you wish you lived in the red brick building.  The entire image spans from flap edge to flap edge on the jacket and edge to edge on the case. The characters in the windows on the front, right, of the jacket and case are lively.  The hint of nighttime sky we view on the front extends across the back, left, in brush strokes of shades of blue.  Beneath this expanse, colorful homes line the bottom, windows dark.  The text on the front of the jacket is varnished.

A pale turquoise covers the opening and closing endpapers.  The night sky is the background for the title, publication information, and dedication pages.  In this night sky, stars leave white-line trails behind them.

Artist Oge Mora 

used acrylic paint, gouache, china markers, patterned paper pastels, and old book clippings to create the collage illustrations for this book.

The selected colors reflect the more subdued lighting of nighttime, yet they are still a vibrant blend of hues. Each double-page picture calls out to the reader, asking them to stop and notice the detailed depictions.

The facial expressions on the characters convey each mood superbly.  We see upset, worry, glee, triumph, and fright before calm settles over each individual.  Closed eyes and whispered conversations signal calm.  For most of the images, we are close to the actions of the characters.  Sometimes a group of smaller insets are on a double page spread to indict the quick passage of time and shift in events.

One of my many favorite illustrations shows readers four windows in the red brick building.  The first four windows, on the left, give us a peek inside the homes where the parents have intervened.  This is a huge shift in the progression of the action.  The parrot squawks a goodnight, a father clicks off a flashlight, a mother comforts a fussy baby, and a girl reclaims her rocket as her mother presses the off button on her car alarm.  The next set of four windows on the right are dark.  The lights are off, but we can still see elements from the earlier pictures.  Wonderful.

In a universal sense and on an everyday level this title, Everybody In The Red Brick Building written by Anne Wynter with illustrations by Oge Mora, allows us to see that the world or our home, family, or friends send disruptions to what we consider normal.  And, despite those disruptions, peace is restored.  I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Anne Wynter and Oge Mora and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Anne Wynter has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  Oge Mora has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website there is a Home and Community Classroom Kit which includes this title and three other books.  Anne Wynter is interviewed at Picture Book Builders and Kidlit in Color with respect to this title. This book is showcased at We Need Diverse Books with an interview of Oge Mora.

Sometimes, thankfully not every time, something unforeseen or annoying can keep us from falling into much needed sleep.  A branch rubbing against your window by a shift in the wind's direction is bothersome.  You make a mental note to trim it as soon as morning arrives.  In Awake (Roaring Brook Press, October 19, 2021) written and illustrated by Mags Deroma something unforeseen happens to a little girl and her furry friend, Oscar. Something usually not in her bedroom has taken up residence.

In a big, big city, on a busy city street, there is a pretty tall
building.  At the tipity-top of that tall building is my bedroom.

Just before turning out her light, a very sleepy girl and her dog are suddenly not so sleepy.  The girl notices a spider.  It's surprising how you can go from dead tired to eyes-wide-open awake in a flash.

Sleep is impossible when you share your room with a spider.  There is nothing available to end its life.  It cannot be thought away.

Still, the girl persists in imagining all manner of options to rid her room of that spider.  Her schemes, in her mind, grow larger and larger.  Wait!  The spider is moving.

Quick as a wink, the glass on her nightstand is grabbed and encloses the unwelcome guest.  It is then, on closer examination, a change occurs.  With understanding, fear leaves and is replaced with compassion.

With the protagonist as narrator, author Mags Deroma encourages readers to identify deeply with the little girl.  The words in her sentences fashion a welcoming cadence.  Her descriptions of place and time are those easily identified by many of us.  Here is a passage.

I know!  The WATER SPOUT!
Just like the RAIN,
I'll WASH the spider out!

then out comes
the sun . . .

and dries up 
all the rain . . .

and that big hairy
spider CANNOT come 
up the spout again,
thank you very much!

The limited color palette used throughout the book is introduced to readers on the dust jacket.  These muted shades lend a warmth to the darkness of night.  The use of red here and in the interior portions of the book is highly effective.  On the front, both the little girl and Oscar, her dog, have their gaze on the intruder.  The placement of the text, spider and the characters is marvelous!

To the left of the spine, which replicates the red-and-white stripe of the little girl's pajamas, is a sky dotted with stars surrounding the tall building.  In the front and to the right side of this building, street lamps glow.  The only other light we see is from the arched window of the little girl's bedroom.  She is petting Oscar.

The book case is entirely black with one exception.  On the front are only two very large eyes.  They are the eyes of the spider.

On the opening endpapers amid what could be a horizon at dawn or dusk are lines of hues of orange.  On the right side in a column are phrases to ponder.  The word OPEN is used three times.  It is followed by symbols of eyes, mind, and heart.  The final three words say:


On the closing endpapers amid a starry sky are seven cut-out pieces of paper.  They advise readers on how


Readers are instructed on the necessary materials, giving the guest a name, 


and the step-by-step process.  

On the title page, on the right side we are close to the little girl as she brushes her teeth before bedtime.  Through the doorway we see Oscar, nose to the floor, next to the spider.  On the left side, the verso, on black is the dedication and publication information.  The publication information is in the shape of a spider web done in white.  Clever.

These illustrations by Mags Deroma were

made with paint and soft pastels on a gazillion pieces of cut paper, all collaged together.

Each picture is full of details, asking us to absorb the atmosphere in each scene.  Some are more highly charged emotionally than others.  There are double-page illustrations and single-page visuals.  Sometimes we are brought close to the action and other times we stand back to view the city, the little girl's bedroom, or all her ideas for eliminating the spider. 

At one point we are slightly above the capture of the spider.  All we see is the little girl's arms and hands on the glass over the spider.  There is the top portion of her head.  And a bit of her emotionally charged movement flickering in the lower, right-hand corner.  A single word is on this two-page illustration.  This, in turn, opens to a gatefold, four pages of a spectacular view of the city.  There are layers of buildings, bridges, and a city street shimmering with lights.  On the street directly in front of the tall building, the little girl's home, we can see the names of the businesses.  Along the bottom of the page is the window sill of the bedroom.  The spider peeks out through the glass.  On the right side, in the corner, is a spider web.  (Earlier in the story, careful readers will notice Oscar as he tries to give a specific book to his little girl.)

One of my many favorite illustrations accompanies the third sentence in the book.  It is the second double-page picture.  On the left, the little girl is kneeling on her bed, wearing her pajamas, ready to pull the chain on her bedside lamp sitting on her nightstand.  Oscar is lying on the wood plank floor, with his eyes closed.  Around her bed are several books and a round bin holding treasures.  Other items are hanging on her wall.  They seem to indicate her sense of adventure and imagination.  On the right is the wall with two arched windows in her bedroom.  We can see a small section of an easy chair.

There is nothing more off-setting than discovering you are sharing your bedroom with a creature not to your liking.  Awake written and illustrated by Mags Deroma describes this event to perfection as well as taking us through the thought process of the little girl as she tries to resolve her problem.  That she shares this experience with Oscar makes her and her story more endearing to readers.  This book will promote discussions galore and will be asked to be read often.  Plan on placing a copy on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Mags Deroma and her other work (This is her picture book debut.), please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Mags Deroma has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website, you can view interior illustrations.  

Awake by Mags DeRoma from Let's Talk Picture Books on Vimeo.

Every babysitter, sibling, parent or caregiver is aware of the myriad of challenges faced when shaping children into a bedtime ritual.  Having them follow that ritual is an even harder challenge.  Just when you think everyone is starting to snooze, there will be the sound of bare feet on floors or giggles or the classic asking for a drink of water.  Forty Winks: A Bedtime Adventure (Abrams Books for Young Readers, October 26, 2021) written by Kelly DiPucchio with pictures by Lita Judge is a lovable, engaging and humorous view of patient parents and their thirty-eight mouse children settling down to sleep.

"It's time for bed!" the Wink parents said
Their routine was the same every night.
Mama and Papa lined up their big brood,
all thirty-eight children in sight. 

Each child is called by name, thirty-eight alliterative, rhyming names.  First, the entire crew enjoys a drink and two kinds of snacks.  They eat at different speeds and with different styles.  From there, as you can imagine the mess, they head to pails full of suds for their nightly baths.

Now spotless from head to toe, they dress in cozy flannel pajamas.  Brushing of teeth ensues, two mice at a time at the sink.  Mama reads each of the Winks a book.  (Whew!)  Of course, they want one more.  

Prayers are said as they snuggle into bed, some more quickly and quietly than others.  As a whole they are restless, not ready to rest.  Some moments later, Mama and Papa believe they are all slumbering when someone asks for a drink of water.

How many of the Winks do you think then need a drink?  Later, much later, as they burrow into their bedding, all forty of the family of Winks fall sound asleep.  Outside their home, sunlight brightens the horizon, until . . .

By the time you get to the third page in this narrative by Kelly DiPucchio, you find yourself smiling.  That smile stays with you until the end of the book, and then, a little bit longer.  The rhyming rhythm of the words, especially the thirty-eight names mentioned twice, wraps around you and lifts you up.  Alliteration is in abundance.  Here is a passage.

The loud, hungry pack was served up a snack
of cider and crumb cake and cheese.

Some sipped and some slurped,
some gobbled and burped,
while others said "thank you" and "please".

From left to right on the open dust jacket, artist Lita Judge, has featured all forty of the Winks.  They are all in their pajamas . . . well, most of them are.  Some are wearing fuzzy slippers.  Their antics are hilarious as you can see by the front of the dust jacket.  A couple of them are already asleep.  Having them climbing among the title text mirrors their energy throughout the bedtime routine.  The text and the mice are varnished.

On the book case, an interior illustration is used. We are looking down on most of the sleeping Wink mice.  Continuing in full-color, we see them nestled in beds, single, double, and bunk, a large stuffed turtle pillow, a toy airplane, cars from a train, and in the basket of a floating air balloon.  A circus tent is there for them to play and sleep inside.  Slippers, toys and some stuffed toy animals are on the floor.  Many of them are holding stuffed toy animals or each other.  Some of their artwork hangs on a string stretching across the round window.

On the opening and closing endpapers all forty Winks are showcased in portraits.  The frames around them are pale yellow.  They are a fantastic complement to the watercolor washed sky-blue background.

On the verso and title pages, the entire family is spread along the bottom with the exception of several mice in the airplane, balloon basket, and climbing down a ladder from the balloon.  They are, as is to be expected, highly animated and happy.  These illustrations in a variety of sizes

were made with pencil and watercolor.

The physical characteristics of the mice are realistic as Lita Judge nursed a baby mouse left on her doorstep, by a concerned neighbor, back to health.  Their facial expressions conveying their moods and their body postures depicting total exuberance are certain to have readers stopping to be sure not to miss a single intricate element.  Every line made and every color chosen work together beautifully.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture.  Ten of the Wink youngsters are gathered around a table, devouring their snacks of cider, crumb cakes, and cheese.  Most are seated on stools, one is on the floor, and another is standing on a stack of books on a chair.  A blue cupboard is behind them to the right.  Something has spilled on the floor.  One of the little mice, walking off the page to the right, has stepped in it and leaves footprints.  Readers will pause to look at their clothing.  One of them is wearing an outfit that looks like a tiny bear cub. 

This book, Forty Winks written by Kelly DiPucchio with pictures by Lita Judge, is assuredly an enchanting extension of the title's definition.  It presents an everyday event multiplied by thirty-eight.  It is a read aloud treasure.  I wonder how many of the names you will remember when asked to list them at the end.  Your collections, personal and professional, won't be complete without a copy of this title.

To learn more about Kelly DiPucchio and Lita Judge and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Kelly DiPucchio has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Lita Judge has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrations.  There is an article about this book in The Oakland Press (Michigan).

For the first post in this series, Sweet Dreams, here is the link.

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