Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

In Their Footsteps

Without them, what would we have overlooked or not pursued?  Without them, what are we losing?  Without them, what kind of future is there?  Throughout history, there have been those who would discount, obstruct, and overlook their ideas, endeavors, and accomplishments.  They made choices no one else dared to make.  They continue, regardless of their age, to do what is best for the largest number of individuals and our planet.  We should never doubt the capacity of any committed woman.  They serve, protect, and seek.
There are creators, authors and illustrators, of children's nonfiction who are bringing the achievements of those committed women to readers.  In two weeks, Women's History Month 2022 begins at the national level and the international level in a few other countries.  It is hoped these three titles will motivate others to follow their own positive pursuits.  

In the summer of 1776 the United States Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed by fifty-six delegates.  After reading Her Name Was Mary Katharine: The Only Woman Whose Name Is On The Declaration Of Independence (Christy Ottaviano Books, Little, Brown And Company, January 25, 2022) written by Ella Schwartz with illustrations by Dow Phumiruk, you will marvel at the tenacity and courage of this woman.  Given the time and place in which she lived, her accomplishments are bold and brilliant.

Before America was even a country, a young girl lived in the colony of Connecticut in a busy port town with her parents and younger brother. 

Mary Katharine, her mother, and younger brother stayed in this community until the early death of her father.  The siblings were in their teens and both were being educated by their mother.  In Rhode Island where Mary Katharine and her mother relocated, William, having completed his apprenticeship as a printer, opened the first newspaper there. 

Eventually, William left Providence to start another paper in Philadelphia.  Mary Katharine continued to run the paper in Rhode Island until William decided to sell it and asked her and her mother to come to Philadelphia.  There she ran his paper, the Pennsylvania Chronicle.  It should be noted that in both papers, the Goddard family (Mary Katharine) had no issues with speaking their minds about the hardships of being under British rule.  When William opened a third newspaper, the Maryland Journal, and the Baltimore Advertiser, Mary Katharine moved to Baltimore.  

Regardless of her brother's activities, including time spent in jail, Mary Katharine ran the newspaper in Maryland.  When she was thirty-seven, she did a courageous thing adding her initials to the paper, M. K. Goddard, in reference to ownership.  After a postal system outside of the British system was devised, Mary Katharine was the first woman postmaster in the colonies in 1775.  When the first Declaration of Independence was printed, the signatures of only a few were shown.  What they declared was grounds for treason.  When the Continental Congress asked Mary Katharine to print a new version, the first version with all the signatures, she added her name at the bottom as the printer.  Her allegiance was aligned with delegates.  

The painstaking research by author Ella Schwartz is evident in the facts presented within the narrative of Mary Katharine Goddard's life and work.  Tying each portion together is the repetition of the main title phrase with additional words changing to reflect an important time in her life.  There are quotes attributed to her as seen in the newspaper on several pages within the text to reinforce her political stance. Here is a passage.

Mary Katharine had been handed a great honor and a big
responsibility.  Her printed version of the Declaration of 
Independence would announce the birth of a new nation and
was intended to be preserved forever for future generations.
The people named on the document pledged their honor,
fortunes, and lives in the formation of the United States of 
America.  If the war was lost, every person named on that
document would be sentenced to death.

Her name was Mary Katharine
and she had an important job to do. 

The image you see on the front of the dust jacket contines on the other side of the spine for about a fourth of the space.  The words of the hand-written Declaration of Independence and those same words on the printed document shine through the flag and blue background on the bottom of the front of the jacket and the entire back of the jacket.  Mary Katharine proudly stands holding the results of her work on the front.  On the back, in a small square-framed image, we see her at work.  She is setting the type for her initials and last name to appear on the next newspaper.  On the front of the dust jacket, Mary Katharine, the Declaration of Indepence, and the title text are varnished.

On the book case, on either side of the spine, are two different illustrations.  On the left, we see Mary Katharine standing in the doorway of the Providence Gazette as a group of men on the street comment on the newspaper.  In the background citizens are gathering and holding signs in protest.  On the right, Mary Katharine is close to us.  She is holding the printed Declaration of Independence as she stands outside the newspaper shop doorway.  Again in the background there are supporters of independence, moving to the right on a brick street with a building in the background.

On the opening endpapers are tiny elements representing the life and times of Mary Katharine Goddard.  On a pale blue background are single letters used in printing, her name printed twice with and without her full name, books, American flags of that time period, the Declaration of Independence, candles, quill pens, bundles of letters awaiting delivery and other printer tools.  On the closing endpapers are framed blocks holding letters ready to be set for printing.  The colors here are black, gray, and hues of gold.

On the title page we are inside the newspaper shop near the printing press shown on the left.  The dedication and publication information is placed with intention here.  On the right stands Mary Katharine, hands folded in front of her and wearing an apron.  A stack of paper is placed on the table to the right of her.

Artist Dow Phumiruk rendered these illustrations 

digitally in Adobe Photoshop with scans of watercolors and textures.

In each double-page picture several perspectives are shown as well as different times and places.  The blending of the times and places is superb.  The double-page picture of the delegates at work is shown as if we are looking down on them.  In another two-page visual, across the top the two armies are meeting at Lexington and Concord.  The main image shows the American troops gathering on the left and on the right Mary Katharine is working at her press to continue printing during the war.

One of my favorite illustrations is a blend of the inside of a building on the far left and far right with the outside of buildings in the middle.  On the left, the Continental Congress is in session.  In the middle people are reading Mary Katharine's newspaper.  On the right, she is standing inside her building looking outside.  Where there would normally be sky, we see in gray tones a collage of American soldiers during battle.

After reading Her Name Was Mary Katharine: The Only Woman Whose Name Is On The Declaration Of Indepence written by Ella Schwartz with illustrations by Dow Phumiruk, when you think of people representative of the word courage, Mary Katharine Goddard will come to your mind.  At the close of the book is a two-page author's note, a page of important terms, and selected sources.  You will want to place this book in the who-knew-but-grateful-to-know-now category of titles to be read and shared widely.  You will want to have a copy in both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Ella Schwartz and Dow Phumiruk and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Ella Schwartz has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Dow Phumiruk has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  The cover reveal for this book with conversations with the creators was hosted by librarian, lecturer, and writer John Schumacher on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.

There are those who relish fairytales.  There are those who are fans of animation.  There are those who will watch movies hour after hour.  For those who enjoy all three of these pastimes, they need to read Out Of The Shadows: How Lotte Reiniger Made the First Animated Fairytale Movie (Abrams Books For Young Readers, February 8, 2022) written and illustrated by Fiona Robinson.  When things we love become our life's work, the world reaps the benefits.

Once upon a time
in Berlin . . .

. . . there was a little girl who
loved fairytales.

Lotte Reiniger had grandparents and parents who supported her love of fairytales, reading to her for hours, day in and day out.  When she learned to read, she could finally enter the world of fairytales on her own.  Although Lotte liked nothing better than the books holding those stories, she was equally fascinated with a new technology, movies.

Her grandmother often took her to the movies, silent at the time with an orchestra creating music.  Once after Lotte received Chinese puppets as a gift, she began to perform her fairytales.  She also learned the fine art of Scherenschnitte, papercutting.  Lotte started to design her own characters for presentation based on the movable parts of the Chinese puppets and her papercut figures.  

Her interest in films and filmmaking grew.  Lotte studied at a school where she could observe the work of Paul Wegener.  One day he noticed all the papercuts she had made of him as she watched his troupe work.  Lotte was now working on his film crew!

In defining moments for her, Lotte used stop motion animation to make a memorable scene in the Paul Wegener movie, The Pied Piper of Hamelin.  Then, Wegener had her meet Hans Curliss and Carl Koch, directors at an animation studio.  Here Lotte thrived.  She and Carl worked together creating her short film, The Ornament of the Loving Heart.  Their relationship blossomed into love and marriage.  Lotte's making of short animations blossomed, too.

In 1923, Lotte was asked by a wealthy patron to make a full-length silhouette animated movie. She, Carl, and a team of animators moved to work in a space at the patron's home.  In order to get the effect she wanted, Lotte invented the 

first multiplane camera

consisting of a series of glass plates in a Tricktisch.  She wrote her own story weaving together components from other fairy tales.  Three long, work-filled years later The Adventures Of Prince Achmed premiered on May 2, 1926 in Berlin, Germany.  The details of this feat, including the 8,000 handwritten invitations, were wondrous.  So was the audience's response.  

The manner in which author Fiona Robinson reveals the facts of Lotte Reiniger's life is as if we have stepped into a fairytale.  Her word selections are rich in their descriptions of the people, places, and time periods.  The narrative is divided into three parts, each labeled with a span of dates.  Within those parts, we are awed by Lotte's choices, her work, and the insertion of process methods which are a part of her story.  Here are two passages.

One day, Lotte was given a gift that would transform her from a reader and
viewer of stories into a teller of stories.  Chinese puppets allowed Lotte to
physically perform her beloved fairytales.

Like a fairy casting a spell with her wand, Lotte flicked her wrist and brought
the sleeping puppets to life.  Swooping down low, stretching up high, she led
them in a dance around the room.

She created a plot.  She drew a storyboard showing sketches
of key moments in her five-minute-long animation.  She
cut and hinged characters.  And she sat at the Tricktisch
for hours on end, making incremental movements as Carl
shot each frame from above.  The film was then dyed with 
special ink to make the animation colorful.

When you open the book case, to the left, on the back, is information you might see on a dust jacket's flaps.  The canvas is black.  The only other colors are lavender and white.  On the outside of an intricately framed oval, in white letters, is information about Fiona Robinson and the book's publication.  Dancing on top of the ISBN are three tiny lavender creatures.  Inside the oval in black is Lotte Reiniger's name in a large font.  Under and to the right of her name is text about the book.  To the left, a hand holds a pair of scissors.  

On the right of the book case, the color palette used frequently throughout the book and exquisite elements are shown to readers.  Lotte is shown making one of her papercut figures.  This is bordered in frames of film.  Every detail is placed with a purpose.

On the opening endpapers we are inside a darkened theater.  Along the bottom of the page are papercut figures in black against a gray background.  They are waiting.  On the closing endpapers the background is glowing and golden.  The members of the audience are displaying jubilation.  The title page is a stunning depiction of cut-paper art.  Two peacocks on either side of a double-page picture hold film in their beaks.  Frames of the film hold the words of the secondary portion of the title.  This illustration is in golden yellow and black.

The images in this book were rendered by Fiona Robinson 

using scissor-cut silhouette, watercolors, and felt pen.

Each page turn will have you gasping in amazement at the layout, design, and artwork.  Each of the three parts begins as a frame in a silent movie with white on black.  Lotte steps into the pages of a fairytale story with a wolf peeking over the top corner.  She dances with her Chinese puppets.  When she is learning Scherenschnitte, a younger cutout of Lotte in white, scissors in one hand and a character in the other hand, dances as cut paper falls like snowflakes.  On the left side of this scene a large hand holding scissors cuts into the paper holding the text.  There are several single pages with enlarged frames of film holding the text.

Single pages hold the passage of time with a variety of smaller illustrations changing as your eyes move from left to right.  Perspectives change, drawing us deeper into the story.  We are given an overview and then brought directly into a particular moment.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture asking readers to view it vertically.  The text, in white, is placed outside the roof of the garage in a deep blue night sky.  Under the roof, Lotte, Carl, and other animators are working with the multiplane camera.  Lotte is in color but the others are shadows and a silhouette.  To the right of them are five frames portraying the results of their work.

As soon as you finish reading Out Of The Shadows: How Lotte Reiniger Made the First Animated Fairytale Movie written and illustrated by Fiona Robinson, you will immediately read it again.  You will study the narrative and the artwork, not wanting to miss a single feature.  At the close of the book are two pages containing an author's note, a note about The Adventures Of Prince Achmed, Lotte Reiniger Movies Suitable For Children, a bibliography, a recommended film about Lotte Reiniger, and institutions housing her work.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Fiona Robinson and her other work, please visit her accounts on Facebook and  Instagram.  At the publisher's website, you can scroll through pages showing the other acclaimed books by Fiona Robinson.  

When you've spent nearly your entire life living in a state that is the only place in the world where a certain stone is found, you find yourself in search of that stone whenever you can.  There is no better place to find that unique piece of rock than along the beaches of northern Michigan. The beauty of searching for one thing is that it leads you to other discoveries.  Dragon Bones: The Fantastic Fossil Discoveries of Mary Anning (Roaring Brook Press, February 15, 2022) written by Sarah Glenn Marsh with illustrations by Maris Wicks is about a family of seekers and a girl in that family who loved nothing more than roaming along the seacoast, especially after a storm.

Little Mary Anning loved to treasure hunt.

There were plenty of storms in her community of Lyme Regis, England.  After those storms, Mary, her father, and brother would grab their tools and dig in the newly washed sand and rocks.  Mary would venture inside caves hoping to find something special.  After their hunts, the family would sell the found fossils to help pay for food.  Mary would much rather study the fossils, but she understood.

She sold 

snakestones, devil's fingers, and verteberries.

The family was successful, working together, until one autumn, Mary's father died.  It was now up to Mary to lead the hunts regardless of the weather.  Each time she and her brother went on a hunt, she dreamed of finding something no one else had ever unearthed.  And one day, her brother did find something.

He found a fossil of a giant head with a long nose and rows of sharp teeth.  He gave up digging, but Mary wanted to find the entire body.  She did it!  A collector of fossils bought it and someone at the museum named it Ichthyosaur.  Mary did not believe it looked like a lizard.  To her it looked like a dragon!

Over the years, Mary found other Ichthyosaur fossils.  She studied the insides of fish to understand them better.  Mary continued hunting without her brother Joseph, but her canine Tray was good company.  Mary, one winter, unearthed another different and entire skeleton.  A man named it plesiosaur.  He wrote about it, never giving Mary any credit.  At twenty-seven years old, Mary opened the Anning's Fossil Depot displaying her discoveries.  Mary kept digging, especially after the wildest of storms, constantly seeking a new treasure.

When you read this book, author Sarah Glenn Marsh has written in clear, concise sentences as if we are sitting across from one another in conversation about this remarkable woman.  She reminds us, through the repetition of certain words, what guided Mary Anning throughout her life.  By mentioning Mary imagining her father with her, we understand her on a more intimate level.  The narrative reinforces Mary's consistent curiosity, her desire to study and expand on what she knew, and her documentation of her findings.  We are also well aware of the lack of credit given to Mary during her lifetime for her contributions to the field of paleontology.  Here is a passage.

Through wind and rain,
she carefully unearthed the
mysterious creature that would
become her next major discovery.

A man bought the skeleton and named
it "plesiosaur," which meant "near-lizard."
He wrote papers about it that lots of scientists
read with amazement.  He never mentioned Mary.

When looking at the matching and open dust jacket and book case, there are several things you immediately notice.  A single illustration spans left to right crossing the spine.  On the left is one of the cliffs along the seacoast in Mary Anning's community.  We are looking through the rock where an assortment of fossils are embedded.  To the right of the cliff, Mary is holding up a tooth.  Her stance and facial expression suggest her determination to keep searching for something new and different.  In a clever design technique fossils are used in the title text.  Mary and the text are varnished.

On the opening endpapers in two tones of brown we are shown an underwater scene from prehistory.  All the creatures, in various stages of movement, are frozen as fossils.  When we look at the closing endpapers, the scene has changed.  It is now in full color as it was when all those beings were alive and moving through the water.  Above them creatures fly between the water's surface and sky.  A double-page picture is used for the dedication, verso, and title pages.  It is a close-up of Mary working near the head of one of her dinosaurs.  In addition to the fossil, all we see are her hands and her pickaxe resting nearby.

Artist Maris Wicks made these illustrations 

with HB pencil on plain printer paper, scanned, and colored in Photoshop.

The size of the pictures vary to complement and enhance the text.  There are two-page pictures of seascapes and vast expanses.  We are brought closer when the sea starts to flood the Anning home and Mary and her brother are being placed in a boat outside the home's window.

When Mary is dreaming about the creatures associated with the fossils, they are drawn as if they are ghosts, dreamy imaginings.  Several times single-page visuals blend together as if they are one.  As a reader we are never in doubt as to Mary's devotion to her passion.  Her exuberance is apparent in every line and perspective.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  Mary and her father are seated and working together at a table exhibiting newly uncovered fossils.  Many are coated in dirt which they are working to wipe and brush clean.  Mary's father is on the left.  We see most of his body except for the top portion of his head.  Mary is on the right wiping a fossil.  Her tongue is partially out of her mouth as she concentrates.  To the right of her are "fossil ghosts" from her mind.

This book, Dragon Bones: The Fantastic Fossil Discoveries of Mary Anning written by Sarah Glenn Marsh with illustrations by Maris Wicks, is an admirable blend of writing and artwork showcasing the determination and dedication of one woman who faced poverty, danger, and bias against women her entire life.  Her successes have stood the test of time and are to be commended.  At the close of the book are four pages highlighting Mary, the creatures whose bones she unearthed, how to become a paleontologist and a selected bibliography.  This book is sure to inspire others who seek a similar vocation.  Your personal and professional collections won't be complete without a copy of this title.

To learn more about Sarah Glenn Marsh and Maris Wicks and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Sarah Glenn Marsh has accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Maris Wicks has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.  The Lyme Regis Museum has a page featuring Mary Anning with helpful resources.

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