Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Journey Toward Home

Throughout countless hours over decades, not a single one is seen.  Regardless of the habitat explored, they remain elusive.  They prefer the shadows, moving during the in between time before sunrise and after sunset.  Movement in daylight is out of necessity.  

Maybe, the enormous ''house cat'' running from one wooded area to another wooded area across a neighbor's vacant lot is a first sighting in more than sixty years.  Their presence can be fleeting.  After reading Bobcat Prowling (Roaring Brook Press, March 22, 2022) written by Maria Gianferrari with pictures by Bagram Ibatoulline, readers (this reader did) will acquire an eye for spotting this member of the larger feline family and smaller lynx group.

Beyond your house,
behind tall pines,
under paling stars
Mother Bobcat wakes.

With her, a yearling greets the day.  Snow still covers the ground.  A call from a male separates the two.  The yearling needs to find its own home range.  Lengthy travels begin for the cub born one year ago.

Paw prints follow the path of train tracks.  They show shelter sought within the lower branches of evergreens.  In the light of morning, Yearling finds a snowshoe hare.  Yearling is ready for breakfast but a Canada lynx leaps first. Yearling leaves.

The next meal, a squirrel, is snagged by another bobcat.  Yearling again leaves.  Days pass.  Snow melts.  Yearling is spotted in a neighborhood, traveling to the next possible space.  Ring-necked pheasants gather along the edge of a river.  Yearling is quiet and stealthy.  Food!  A coyote charges. Yearling runs, drops the prize, and climbs a tree to safety. Sleep.

Months have come and gone.  Yearling is now Bobcat.  An elder bobcat has died.  Its home range is free for another bobcat.  Bobcat stakes a claim.  If you are observant, you may discover another of Mother Nature's creatures sharing your same space. 

This nonfiction narrative penned by Maria Gianferrari takes us into a part of our world we might not otherwise appreciate.  Through her sensory descriptions, we are able to shadow Yearling as it takes a trip repeated for generations.  The inclusion of humans and their world at several points makes for a more realistic depiction.  Here is a passage.

Yearling wanders.
Winter wanes.
You watch from your window
as Yearling visits your bird feeder,
snaring unsuspecting songbirds.
But he's just passing through.

The scenes presented on the left and right of the open dust jacket look to be as one, but on closer inspection they are two distinct visuals.  To the left of the spine is a great snowy slope with a mountain vista in the background.  A line of evergreens appear to the left and in front of the mountains.  A road, in the front, curves to the left.  Looking small in comparison, Yearling walks down the road.  To the right of the spine, intently focused, is Yearling.  We are close to the cat as it pounces.  The bobcat and text are varnished in this winter setting.

An enlarged interior image covers the book case.  It is still winter along a river.  Yearling has just captured a pheasant.  The remainder of the birds take flight to the right and above the bobcat.  The sky and clouds are colored with end-of-the-day hues as the sun sets. 

On the opening and closing endpapers is an amplified map.  It shows the route taken by Yearling becoming Bobcat and locating a home range.  It begins in southern Vermont and ends in eastern Massachusetts.  The map is colored in shades of tan, cream, and gray.  It is similar to a topographical map.

On the title page, Yearling runs over a grassy field.  On the verso and dedication pages, a large winter illustration covers both pages.  The snow in the center is a placeholder for text.  Below it are blades of brown grass.  Above it are fields of rolling hills and a forest on the right.

Bagram Ibatoulline rendered these images using


Each two-page picture is rich in texture and nearly photographic.  As readers, we are drawn into each  portrait, each portion, of Yearling's quest.  Some of the action is filled with the tension of survival.  We view immense landscapes in the wild and in urban locations.  We are given a very real sense of sharing, with respect, a common place.

One of my many favorite illustrations shows Yearling stretched on a leafless branch at the top of a tree.  The trunk of the tree and most of its branches are on the right side of the image.  The bough on which Yearling sleeps extends across the gutter to the left.  Part of Yearling's body hangs off the branch.  The lower portion of the sky is a blend of pale peach and pink.  Above this is a darkening blue sky with a sprinkle of stars beginning to show.

This book, Bobcat Prowling written by Maria Gianferrari with artwork by Bagram Ibatoulline, is an informative, beautiful chronicle in the life of a bobcat yearling.  At the close of the book are two pages titled All About Bobcats, a page titled How To Hunt Like A Bobcat and one titled What's On the Menu?  There is a list of books for further reading and of websites to visit and videos to view.  This title is a companion to Coyote Moon and Hawk Rising.  You will want to place a copy of this book in your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Maria Gianferrari and Bagram Ibatoulline and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Maria Gianferrari has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At Macmillan, you can view interior images.  This title is highlighted at Maria Marshall's website and at Picture Book BuildersBoth include interviews with Maria Gianferrari.

Maria Gianferrari is a community scientist, self-taught naturalist, and bird nerd who holds an M.A. in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English.  She is the author of narrative nonfiction picture books which celebrate urban ecosystems, the natural world and our wild neighbors.  She also writes engaging expository nonfiction.  And as a lover of dogs, Maria's fiction picture books star dogs as main characters and explore the human-canine bond.  She writes from her light-filled, book-lined study in Massachusetts with rescue dog, Maple at her side.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Feline Follies

It seems like yesterday, but more than twenty years have come and gone since that sunny summer day.  In a tiny town along one of northern Michigan's largest lakes, a few people strolled down the sidewalks.  On one sidewalk, a homeless kitten wandered.  Most people hardly gave it a glance.  I was not one of them.

I stopped and talked to the lost soul for a few minutes.  Walking away, I engaged in the timeless battle of "should I or should I not."  When I turned around to go back, a family of three had stopped to kneel down and chat with the kitten.  The kitten had found its forever family.  A little boy was overjoyed.  A few months later, my remarkable, precious Xena came into my world.

The reality is, we never know when or what kind of animal will become a member of our family.  When they do, most days our joys are multiplied beyond our imagining.  Two recent publications, a month apart, focus on our feline friends.  In the first, Bathe The Cat (Chronicle Books, February 8, 2022) written by Alice B. McGinty with illustrations by David Roberts, a clever cat creates off-the-charts comedy with a little help from magnetized letters.

Come on folks,
it's time to clean!


This family, two youngsters, a baby, and two dads, need to work together because Grandma is arriving at two o'clock.  Their house is chaotic clutter. All the assignments are posted on the refrigerator door.  They are read aloud by Daddy.  The last one,

and I'll bathe the cat,

is not welcome news for the cat.

The wily feline rearranges the letters. When Daddys asks why the children and Dad are wasting time, they look at the tasks listed on the door.  They make no sense at all.

. . . Bobby, bathe the mat.
Sarah, mop the baby,
and Dad will mow the cat. 

Trust me, this cat does not want to be mowed.  Paws switch the letters again.  It is another crazy list.

The crafty cat goes back to the refrigerator.  This list is even more nonsensical, until Daddy makes a discovery.  It is almost time for Grandma Marge to walk through the door.  Will she find mayhem or peaceful perfection?

Author Alice B. McGinty begins this book with a common scenario, getting ready for the visit of a relative.  As her first rhyming phrases unfold, we easily step into their rhythm until the last sentence, a question.  Then, we burst into laughter.  Our laughter increases with every meddlesome moment the cat spends moving the words and fashioning outlandish new tasks which rhyme beautifully.  Here is another hilarious passage.

No, no! That's WRONG! You call this work?!
Have all you people gone BERSERK?
You've scrubbed my fish! You fed the FLOOR?!

The bright shades of orange, pink, green, yellow, and blue we see on the front, right, of the open dust jacket invite happiness regardless of the frantic looks on all the characters, except the cat, of course.  We see here a hectic incident frozen in time.  We are curious to know what has happened.  To the left of the spine on another crisp white background, the child wearing the dinosaur costume is kneeling over the fishbowl.  She is feeding three eager fish.

On the book case the background is white.  On either side of the spine is a single image.  We see the fathers and two of the children chasing the cat that is nearly off the right side.  The baby is smiling and crawling along in the lower, left-hand corner.

On the opening endpapers, letters on the refrigerator spell the tasks to accomplish.  On the left side is a child's drawing of Daddy and Dad.  For reasons readers can guess, the words on the closing endpapers refer to things to do for the cat.  On the left side is a drawing of Grandma Marge.  On the right side is a drawing of the cat.

On the title page, the cat calmly licking one paw with a toy mouse in the other paw sits on top of the ''t'' in bathe.  These images by artist David Roberts ask readers to pause at every page turn.  We need to appreciate the details and the expressions on the characters' faces.  Just looking at the cat's face will have readers giggling. 

Rendered in pencil and watercolor, each two-page visual is loaded with elements extending and enhancing the words.  Sometimes we are brought close to the action and feel as though we are participants.  Other times, we stand back more as observers.  When the cat is rearranging the letters on the refrigerator, we are brought very close which heightens the laughter factor.

One of my many favorite illustrations takes place outside the characters' home.  The home with its hues of orange door supplies the background.  On the left, Bobby is bathing the welcome mat with a CAT SHAMPOO BOTTLE next to the large orange bucket.  Behind him and to his right, Daddy is vacuuming the lawn.  On the right, Sarah is mopping a laughing baby.  Dad is looking perplexed as he stands next to the lawn mower.  The cat, tail with fur on end, is running off the right edge.  It just heard the sentence

 Mow the cat?

If there is one thing we know to be true, it is laughter can be the best medicine, especially the laughter of children.  This book, Bathe The Cat written by Alice B. McGinty with artwork by David Roberts, is one readers will read often and listeners will beg to have it read repeatedly.  I highly recommend you have a copy in both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Alice B. McGinty and David Roberts and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Alice B. McGinty has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  David Roberts has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.

Who can resist the allure of a kitten?  Those little bundles of fur are some of the most magical of baby animals.  Their curiosity for whatever is around them and their ensuing shenanigans can melt the iciest of hearts.  Author Florence Minor and her husband, artist Wendell Minor, present all the delightful, memorable aspects of these adorable babies in their newest collaboration, Smitten with Kittens (Charlesbridge, March 8, 2022).

Who isn't smitten
with a kitten's sweet MEW

and all the cute things
that kittens will DO?

The first meal of the day gives kittens the energy they need to play.  Outside, they love to chase butterflies.  Inside, they look in a mirror wondering about the handsome being they see.

If they happen to wander into the bathroom, it will only happen once or at least their humans will keep the toilet paper in a safer location in the future.  The television supplies endless entertainment for kittens.  The birds are the stars, but they don't seem to fly into the room. 

Tucked into the smallest cubbies, kittens hide and expect you to seek.  They run and romp and run and romp until their energy is gone.  Then, they get cozy and rest.  They dream of doing what they do best.

Within a single sentence or two, using rhyming words, Florence Minor creates joy we willingly embrace.  Her pacing asks readers to participate in the narrative, guessing what the second rhyming word is.  Throughout the entire narrative, we smile at the behavior of the kitten she so aptly describes.  Florence Minor has gifted us with the experience of being a kitten.  Here is the first of two sentences.  I wonder what the second rhyming word will be.

Kittens make trouble
whatever they DO---
rolling, more rolling . . .

In looking at the open and matching dust jacket and book case, we stop for a bit to relish the artwork of Wendell Minor.  Rendered

in graphite on paper and digital,

the illustrations are rich in texture and authenticity.  Every line vibrates with the liveliness embodied in kittens.  Wendell's masterful command of light and shadow raises the reader's pictorial experience.

On the front, right side of the jacket, the title text is raised.  There are also seven paw prints in varnished white on the right side of the front.  To the left, on the other side of the spine, a charcoal kitten is in a pounce pose.  Its expression is pure playfulness.

On the opening and closing endpapers are a series of ten kitten poses.  It is as if particular seconds are paused in time.  They are nearly photographic, but soft in their quality.  They are graphite on white.  Every single one is stunning.

On the initial title page, two kittens look up from the inside of a cardboard box.  One is resting their front paws on the edge of the box.  On the formal title page a large image of a kitten begins on the left, crosses the gutter, and extends to the center of the right side.  The kitten is curled and napping.  It is curled around a red toy mouse with white hearts on it.

White space is an element in these images drawing our attention to the kittens.  The kittens are shown in a variety of activities and poses.  We might see their entire body or only a portion.  Color is used sparingly as an accent.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is a two-page picture.  Three kittens are seated in a row with their backs to us.  One is to the left of the gutter; the other two are to the right of the gutter.  They are facing a television screen placed on a large surface.  They are staring intently at a bright red cardinal flying close to them among the clouds.  Their tiny heads are cocked slightly to indicate their concentration.

Readers of all ages will enjoy reading and rereading Smitten with Kittens written by Florence Minor with artwork by Wendell Minor.  At the close of the book are two pages with ten Fun Facts about kittens.  For cat and kitten lovers and for those wishing to enhance their appreciation of our feline friends, you'll want to have a copy of this title in both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Florence Minor and Wendell Minor and their other work, please follow the link embedded in their names to take you to their shared website.  Florence and Wendell also share professional Facebook and Pinterest accounts.  Florence Minor has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Wendell Minor has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. At the publisher's website, you can view an interior illustration and download an activity sheet.  At Penguin Random House, you can view additional interior images.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

In Honor Of Uniqueness

When you are taught to believe different is a good thing, you tend to look at the differences of others and differences in yourself with respect.  Those things making us unique are treasures.  Sometimes they make life more challenging, but there are those, who if not kindred spirits, understand our uniqueness.  They will respond with compassion.

Through their understanding and compassion a lasting bond usually forms.  In Midnight & Moon (Tundra, February 8, 2022) written by Kelly Cooper with illustrations by Daniel Miyares, readers are privy to the story of several of these beautiful, unbreakable bonds.  In reading this book, we realize we can be the special individual needed by another even if we are one who needs help more often than others.

tucked into the shadows of the poplar trees
like one of winter's last snowdrifts.

The child and her mother watch as the foal struggles to navigate its surroundings.  By its actions, it appears to have diminished vision.  Another foal, black, comes to its aid, its body pressing against the white foal.

The girl observes the world around her and expresses it through her drawing.  When her mother asks her what they will name the two new foals, she writes her answer.  By her actions, it appears the child is unable to speak.  

Moon can hear what the other horses cannot.  His sense of hearing is amplified.  When he is unable to go where he needs to, he waits for Midnight to press his body close to his.  Like Moon, the little girl has an increased ability to hear.

The two horses care for each other through touch and the whispers of nickers.  At school, Clara finds friendship in a boy named Jack like Moon was found by Midnight.  The seasons shift and the horses now need to come to the mother and her daughter for food.  Moon comes to Clara where she has a pile of oats for him and him alone.

One day dark clouds gather in a winter sky.  The horses move about uneasily.  Inside the school, only Clara does not do show and tell.  Outside, the storm is so sudden the horses are confused and the school bus nearly passes Clara's house in the blinding snow.  Clara and her mother discover the horses are not at the barn.  In the middle of a blizzard, will a child with no voice bring home a horse that cannot see?

Through the lyrical words penned by Kelly Cooper, we walk with Moon, Midnight, and their herd.  We shadow Clara and Jack.  As they move through the seasons, so do we.  Kelly Cooper's observations of the world around her are evident in the detailed descriptions that make the reading of this narrative sensory and intimate.  Here are two passages on a single page.

Moon can't see, but he hears sounds that other horses
ignore.  The eggshell crack of a meadow lark hatching.  
The glide of a salamander into the pond.  He knows
every horse in the herd by the sound of its hooves.

When Moon doesn't know where he is, he whinnies
and waits.  Thud-thud, thud-thud.  He feels Midnight's
cheek against his shoulder.

The scene on the front, right, of the open dust jacket continues across the spine to the far left edge.  The sunset sky mingles with the increasing darkness, a sprinkling of stars, a crescent moon, and a few snowflakes.  The snowflakes foreshadow a dramatic highpoint in the narrative.  Even though Clara runs toward Midnight and Moon on the right, she sits with Jack on a slight rise in the grass on the far left.  This helps us to understand the beauty of the relationship she has with Jack and the horses.  

A near magical but entirely realistic image spans the book case.  Most of the left side indicates the forest.  Midnight and Moon are facing right.  Their bodies are positioned on either side of the spine.  Moon leans toward the outstretched hand of Clara.  In the break of the trees, a glow raditates above Clara and into a sky replete with warm hues.

On the opening endpapers it is a snowy depiction; a you-can-hardly-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face snowstorm.  There is a change in the color on the right.  When you turn to the closing endpapers, that color, spot glows, is replaced with Moon, Midnight, and the other horses in a line.

On the title page, artist Daniel Miyares shows the home of Clara and her mother.  The barn is in the background.  Trees blooming with spring blossoms are to the left and right of the house.

The illustrations in this title were 

painted with gouache on paper

There are double-page pictures, single-page visuals and smaller images surrounded by lots of white space.  We are shown wide vistas and brought close to the children and the horses.  These illustrations are atmospheric and emotionally-charged. The color palette and use of light and shadow is fabulous.

One of my many favorite illustrations is the two-page image for the above-noted text.  On the left, we are shown Moon with Midnight pressing his cheek into Moon.  We are close to them with only their heads and a portion of their necks visible.  Around them are layers of grass and leaves.  In the upper-right hand corner of this left side, nestled in the grass, is a bird's nest with three speckled meadowlark eggs.  Along the bottom to the left and right of the gutter the herd of horses runs against the warm and pastel colors of an afternoon or morning sky.

This book, Midnight & Moon written by Kelly Cooper with artwork by Daniel Miyares, is an affirmation of the significance and value of honoring differences.  It reminds us friendships can form through mutual respect between animals, humans and humans and animals.  I highly recommend you place a copy of this title in both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Daniel Miyares and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Kelly Cooper has an account on Instagram.  Daniel Miyares has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.  Kelly Cooper and Daniel Miyares are interviewed together at Maria Marshall's site.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

On The Move

The sky is a startling blue.  The sun is blinding-bright against the snow.  The temperature is in the low forties with a wind chill ten degrees higher than most of our temperatures the past several months.  When stepping outside a change is felt.  It is the whisper of spring.  

With spring, the smallest beings come awake.  They creep, crawl, hop, climb, and fly.  Sometimes, they find their way into our homes.  Sometimes, they interrupt our enjoyment outside.  And sometimes, they munch on our annuals, perennials, and vegetables.  Regardless, we are aware of their incredible abilities and value to our ecosystems.  Hustle Bustle Bugs (Little, Brown And Company, February 22, 2022) written by Catherine Bailey with pictures by Lauren Eldridge is an exploration and tribute to these creatures who share our world.

Secret cities buzz and bustle
with itty-bitty hard-work hustle.

If we really want to view what insects do, we need to look at them on their level.  We cannot be afraid to get low and close.  We can see carpenter ants chewing through wood no longer needed.  

Working in our gardens, ladybugs rid them of unwanted pests.  Grasshoppers work to keep growth under control.  Do you see termites guarding their nests from unwanted invaders?

Whether bugs are members of a team or individuals acting on their own, the results benefit the entire community.  Bees buzz together. Butterflies glide alone as do spiders weaving webs. 

Dusk and dark reveal other busy bugs.  Fireflies flash to signal an alarm.  Crickets create a symphony hoping to attract a mate.  No matter the weather or the time of day, insects are on the move.

In single (or two) sentences, two parts of a whole beckon readers with an inviting, upbeat rhyme written by Catherine Bailey.  Each of these factual sentences introduce readers to the value of each insect given focus.  These are then compared in separate sections on the same page to the actions of humans contributing to the success of our communities.  These analogies are a wonderful method of promoting understanding.  Here are two passages.

Ladybugs on patrol.
Polka-dot pest control.

Like police officers protecting
a neighborhood, ladybugs
protect flower and vegetable
gardens from aphids and other
tiny pests.

The open and matching dust jacket and book case clearly are a reflection of the title and contents of the book.  All of the featured creatures are about their daily activities.  The technique used as a placeholder for the author and illustrator names is employed for displaying the comparisons of the insect community to the human community within the interior of the title.  The scene on the front, right, continues across the spine to the left.  

On the back, the left, in the background are two little girls.  They are the explorers of the insect world seen in the illustrations.  Between them, they are carrying a notebook, a camera, and a magnifying glass.

Several plank boards, either a table, steps, or porch, provide the background on the opening and closing endpapers.  On the first set, we see on the left, insect identification cards, pine cones, caterpillars in a box of leaves, a magnifying glass, and a camera.  To the right are colored pencils and a notebook embossed with insect bodies.  On the second set, it is darker.  The notebook is on the left with pages torn and tattered sticking out from the covers.  The magnifying glass is on the right along with a roll of tape (used for securing the text), a moth, the insect identifying cards, the camera, and several picture slides of insects.

The title page is a double page picture.  It's a bug's eye view of earth along the bottom for the text.  Above that is grass alive with insects in action.  The two little girls are leaving their home for a day of discovery.

The remaining two-page images by artist Lauren Eldridge are spectacular, exhilarating settings.  They are replete with details; most of them as if we are within the images with the insects.  Lauren Eldridge painstakingly fashioned the insects and their environments by hand, using as much "found" materials as possible.  She photographed individual elements using

a Nikon D7200 with a 35mm lens, and the images were composited digitally.

One of my many favorite two-page pictures is at night.  On the left the two little girls are walking among the grass, daisies, and coneflowers.  One of them is pointing to the right.  Above the rhyming text on the left, a firefly glows.  On the right, a firefly is shown enlarged and close to use.  In the lower, right-hand corner another firefly glows.  To the left of that insect, the comparison text from a torn page is taped to the scene.

One word comes to mind after reading Hustle Bustle Bugs written by Catherine Bailey with pictures by Lauren Eldridge.  That word is AMAZING!  At the close of the book are two pages of further information, Fun Buggy Facts and Want to know more insider insect information? Check out these bug-tastic tidbits . . . To the left of the dedications and publication information is a wonderful explanatory A Note from the Artist.  Your personal and professional collections won't be complete without this title.

To learn more about Catherine Bailey and Lauren Eldridge, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Catherin Bailey has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Lauren Eldridge has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  This book is showcased with creator interviews at librarian, lecturer at Rutgers, and writer John Schumacher's Watch. Connect. Read. Please take a few moments to read the fascinating post at author Anitra Rowe Schulte's site about Lauren Eldridge's work, especially on this title. 

UPDATE:  This title is featured at Picture Book Builders on August 5, 2022.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Links In The Chain Of Story

We carry them with us day after day.  They are a collection of what we taste, smell, hear, see, and touch.  They are a blend of perceptions and beliefs, questions and answers.  They arrive unbidden or on demand.  They are now and then and when.  They are us and all those who are a part of us.

Every second of every day is a memory.  Some are spectacular.  Others, at the time, seem ordinary, but in reality they may be the most valuable.  In Also (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February 8, 2022 written and illustrated by E. B. Goodale, this talented creator explores memories, family, and shared love.

Today, I am at my gramma's house,
high on the hill,
amongst the blueberry bushes,

And also . . .

Daughters and mothers enjoy a day together. Each one is in this present, but also remembering
another time.  The youngest on the hill is recalling a camping trip with her mother and the quiet all around her.

The grandmother, who sees her granddaughter on the hill, in her mind sees herself as a little girl.  On that day, a bunny meant she had wet shoes for the rest of the day.  The youngest girl's mother is looking for her.

She is thinking of another day during blueberry season; when her sister made her laugh as they separated blueberries together in their mother's kitchen.  Next to the little girl on the hill, today, is her grandmother's cat, Nutmeg.  Nutmeg has memories, too.  On this day, she remembers being a tiny kitten with no home until someone touched her and invited her into their home.

Since that day with the little girl on the hill filled with blueberry bushes with her grandmother looking out her window at her and her mother on the hill seeking her, years have come and gone.  Now that day is a story you are reading, now.  As the little girl now a young woman writes, she remembers many pasts and paths folding together.  They are connected by ties never to be broken.

With her writing, E. B. Goodale has given readers a profound and meaningful story.  With a single word, she asks us to not only pause in the reading of the book, but to personally pause in that moment.  How do we connect with what we are reading?

Each description of then and now is vivid and sensory.  Each character's memory is bound to another individual with great affection.  An inviting cadence is supplied with a repeated structure for now and for then for each character. Here is a passage.

. . .she is remembering sorting blueberries
in the breakfast nook of her mama's kitchen.
Her sister was making her giggle.

Not only are we introduced to the characters in the story on the front, right side, of the open dust jacket, but we also are given a hint as to how E. B. Goodale designates the difference between now and then.  The red bird whose looping flight acts as a placeholder for the text is seen in every illustration in this title.  Seeing the characters from this perspective helps us to feel as though we are right behind them, ready to enter the story.

On the other side of the spine is a pale golden wash for a background.  There we see all the characters nestled together in the grass and flowers.  The red bird flies in place above them.  The text here reads:

An ode to the memories we make . . .

. . .and also those we make them with.

The book case takes us into a different then and now.  Those we see on the dust jacket are now in the past.  To the left of them, down the hill, is Gramma's house.  The majority of the case is in shades of purple.  The text is placed in colors signifying now.

The opening and closing endpapers are an intricate pattern of delicate leafy branches in hues of purple on a white canvas.  This pattern also is the first page on the left and the final page on the right.  On the title page the text is in purple.  A large red bird flies between the text.

The two-page pictures throughout the book were rendered by E. B. Goodale 

on kitakata paper using monoprint, gouache, and blueberry ink.

The points of view shift to elevate the text.  At times, we are given a larger view setting.  Our eyes are then drawn to a special point in another scene.  And then, sometimes we are very close to a character.  We are so close we feel as though we can reach out and touch them.

When the narrative alters to now and goes back to when the writer is a little girl, the red bird acts as a thread to the past.  Its flight pattern opens the past to allow the present being referenced to appear in full color.  This bird leads us to the final two-page image revealing its importance.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the little girl's mother is remembering a day filled with laughter.  She and her sister are seated on opposite benches at the breakfast nook table.  They are separating the blueberries.  The sister has placed a row of blueberries in her mouth looking like she has a blueberry smile.  She has her hands on either side of her cheeks like big ears.  The little girl's grandmother watches her daughters by peeking around the doorway to the kitchen.  Outside the breakfast nook window, the red bird is eating at a feeder.  This picture, a memory, is in shades of purple.

Written and illustrated by E. B. Goodale, Also is a rare book, rich in its presentation of memory and our stories.  It celebrates all parts of our lives and others' lives and how we are connected.  I highly recommend you include a copy of this book in both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about E. B. Goodale and her other work, please access her website by following the link attached to her name.  E. B. Goodale has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  This book, process art, and other images are showcased at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Friday, March 4, 2022

It Finds A Way

Stepping into one is like coming home.  It is as if all the words on all the pages are wrapping around you in a comforting and welcoming hug.  Their representation of living beings, places, and things, real and imagined, form infinite possibilities and ultimately hope.  Hope is potent.  

This is what a library does for many people.  For me, as a patron and as a professional librarian, libraries have always meant sanctuary in all its varied interpretations. Love In The Library (Candlewick Press, February 8, 2022) written by Maggie Tokuda-Hall with illustrations by Yas Imamura is a story of finding light in darkness.  It is the story of how a flicker can grow into a flame that burns for generations.

Tama did not like the desert.

She brushed the dust from her eyes as she walked to the library.
The barbed wire fences and guard towers cast long shadows over her path.

She always did her best not to look at the guards.

Tama was the camp's librarian because she enjoyed books.  As she approached the library, there was George holding a stack of books.  He waited for her to arrive every morning.

For a year Tama and George had been at the Minidoka camp, interned there for being Japanese American and previously residing along the western coast of the United States.  Minidoka was not the only camp but like all the other camps, the living  conditions were intolerable and the camps were completely wrong.

Tama, not knowing if or when she would leave the camp, felt trapped by the sameness of her days.  Her thoughts about this sameness filled her mind with unease and doubt.  Thankfully, she found solace in the library and in the presence of George.

One day Tama whispered her word for the worlds revealed in the pages of books and George questioned her out loud as he smiled.  She shushed him.  Tama tried, but she could not smile.  George asked her a question again, and Tama could not respond as tears welled in her eyes.  Then, Tama, asked George a question.  George did not smile, but Tama had her answer.  From that day forward the sameness for Tama, and for George, changed.

Based on the truth of her maternal grandparents' lives at Minidoka, Maggie Tokuda-Hall writes with the same music in her heart as a composer penning a symphony.  In this narrative Maggie Tokuda-Hall takes the symphony, supplying readers with the notes used to make the final piece.  Her word choices are intentional. They take us into the camp providing us with intimate details of the conditions there.  We are privy to the thoughts swirling in Tama's mind.  We are there in the moments when she and George converse.  Single recurring words provide powerful connections throughout the book.  Here is a passage.

"What's wrong?" George asked.

"Nothing.  Or everything," Tama said.  She did not need to tell him what she meant.
He knew.  Everyone in Minidoka knew.  "I try not to complain.  I know this isn't fair, but I
also know there is nothing to be done.  I try not to be afraid.  But I'm just so---so---"

It's like walking through a portal into history when you look at the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  On the right side, front, we see Tama and George, with his usual armload of books.  This is the world they make for themselves inside the walls of the library.  When we look through the window, their harsh reality is presented in the form of the barbed wire fence and manned guard tower.  To the left, on the back, is the building housing the library.  Behind it, the barbed wire fence stretches beyond our sight.  Several people are near the building.  Two are carrying books.  A third man is working in the yard.  This image is used within the book.

The opening and closing endpapers reflect the grim history faced by those forced into the camps.  Barbed wire fencing stretches from left to right across a rocky and sparsely vegetated land.  Behind this is a gray-green sky.  We are close to the fence as if standing in front of it.  On the title page are crumpled internment instructions and a single suitcase.  The suitcase depicting all they were allowed to bring. 

These illustrations by Yas Imamura rendered

in gouache and watercolor 

are both heartbreaking and healing.  Each captured scene, whether it is a double-page picture, a single-page loosely framed image, or a full-page illustration, places us in the world of Tama and George.  The varied perspectives enhance the emotional impact.

The body postures and facial expressions on the people mirror a range of moods.  Light and shadow are used superbly.  In one picture a ray of sunshine illuminates George as he sits at a library table with an open book.  George is the ray of sunshine in Tama's life.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture.  It is as if we are looking down on the setting.  Most of the page is the surface of the library table.  On it are two open books.  A hand, Tama's hand, extends across the right side of the pages of the book closest to us.  Seated across from the book farthest from us is George.  We see his upper body, one arm resting on the table, and the other arm and hand as it reaches out to softly touch Tama's fingers.  This gesture is meaningful.  This image completely elevates and complements the written words.

Oh my goodness.  This book.  This book, Love In The Library written by Maggie Tokuda-Hall with artwork by Yas Imamura, is striking in every respect.  The text and images will take your breath away.  In an author's note on two concluding pages, including a picture of Tama and George, Maggie Tokuda-Hall talks about the story of her grandparents, internment camps and the cruelty of placing the Japanese Americans there.  In subsequent compelling paragraphs she addresses present day racism, the tradition of racism in America, and what we can do to fashion a better future.  I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.  

By following the link attached to their names, you can access the websites of Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Yas Imamura to learn more about them and their other work.  Maggie Takuda-Hall has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Yas Imamura has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can download another author's note and a teacher's guide.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.  Both creators are interviewed at We Need Diverse Books about this title.  They are outstanding interviews.  Author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson highlights this title along with some interior illustrations at her site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Maggie Tokuda-Hall discusses Love in the Library from Candlewick Press on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

The Many Hues Of . . .

It has been so cold the past few mornings, breath frosts hair and the collar on coats when early morning walks are taken.  The air is clear and still.  Snow crunches under the weight of boots.  The color of the sky, cloudless, asks you to stop and stare at its breathtaking beauty.  Even though you've seen it before, you ask yourself if there has ever been a blue so brilliant.

For now, as the snows of winter cover nearly everything, the only natural blue is that found in the waters of the surrounding lakes, not frozen, and the sky.  Soon as birds return from their annual migrations, blue will filt and glide from place to place.  As flowers push from the earth and buds blossom, even more blue will appear.  Blue: A History Of The Color As Deep As The Sea And As Wide As The Sky (Alfred A. Knopf, February 15, 2022) written by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond with illustrations by Daniel Minter is a gorgeous portrait of the history of this color.  You will be transported through time and place.  

The color blue is all around us.

Have you ever wondered where it comes from?

It's in the sky, but you can't touch it.
It's in the sea, but when you cup it,
it disappears.

While attempts were made the color blue, sometimes captured, faded.  Then, it was found in the strangest place.  Did you know that sometime around 4500 BC rocks, blue rocks, were mined deep underground in what is today Afghanistan?  They were used in jewelry until people, as time passed, found other ways to use them, eye makeup and as a paint on multiple surfaces.

It was expensive to make, so others sought another source of the color blue.  It was found near water around the world in snails.  Yes, snails!  Each dyer extracted the blue in their own manner, but it was labor intensive.  Only a few drops came from each snail.  This rarity of being able to produce the color blue elevated it to sacredness in many cultures.

Later, it was discovered blue could be made from plants

called Indigofera.

Around the world, as with the snails, dyers used their own techniques to produce the blue they desired.  This blue was highly valued and much easier to develop.  The plant was even used like money.  It's worth in the world market caused greedy growers and merchants to abuse people for its growth.  

Despite finding blue in rock, snails, and indigo, scientists were seeking a way to make it chemically.  It took Adolf von Baeyer forty years to accomplish this task.  It earned him a Nobel Prize.  Now, regardless of your economic status you could afford blue.

In the final pages of this narrative, readers come to understand blue as more than a color.  It is a feeling.  It contributed to a music known as 

the blues.

It represents the unexpected.  It is shown as first place in prizes.  It is hope.

From beginning to end, author Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond brings readers into the fascinating history of the color blue.  She explores all facets of the color through her meticulous research, weaving the production of the color, associated myths, legends, and religious symbolism, the use of poor and enslaved people for its growth, and its implications in tradition, culture, and language together to fashion a captivating and powerful whole.  Her inclusion of dates, places, and descriptive explanations adds to the appeal of this narrative.  Her technique of using the same words from the opening phrases in the closing phrases is marvelous.  Here are two entwined passages on a single page.

Perhaps because blue was
the color of the heavens,
yet so rare and hard to create
on earth,
people around the world
considered the color holy.

In an old Liberian folktale,
blue is explained as a gift
that connects God to humans.

When you think of blue, you might consider it a cool color.  But, in looking at the open and matching dust jacket and book case, you are drawn to the warmth emanating from the image.  The play of light and shadow on the dyer's face is wonderful.  The pattern in her clothing reflects her culture.  Surrounding her is the sky and beneath her are ripples of water.  Directly behind her are iris with their glowing centers.  Iris are mentioned as a flower used in making blue dye.  

On the other side of the spine, the sky, ripples of water, and iris continue.  Above them the words, in white, read:


On the opening and closing endpapers, on the left side is a silhouette of a figure in a rich, dark blue, hand outstretched.  They are reaching toward two varied patterns of fabric in hues of blue and white.  With a page turn, the verso and dedication pages are on the left.  On the title page, between the text, is a shell with a single drop of blue falling from the interior.  

These luminescent illustrations by Daniel Minter were rendered

using layers of acrylic wash on heavy watercolor paper.

You find yourself gasping in appreciation with each page turn.  These double-page images present themselves as a single, two-page picture or two or more separate images in one illustration.  Sometimes, elements from one will blend into another.

In this artwork, perspectives will be mixed.  You might see something as if you are far away and next to it, we are brought directly into a scene.  We move from observer to participant.  The intricate, at times delicate, details ask you to pause and wonder about the people in each setting.  Like the author's words in the opening and closing phrases, Daniel Minter incorporates portions of the opening elements in his closing picture.

One of my many favorite illustrations has a background wash of many shades of blue with hints of purple and pink.  (This picture is for the discussion about iris petals being used as a blue dye.)  On the left are two exquisite fairy-like people.  They look like the flowers have come to life as people.  Around them are petals.  Moving to the right of them and across the gutter are a group of iris.  Lower, on the left side of the gutter, white lines outline and overlap shapes of iris.  These move across the gutter and to the right.  On the right side two hands and portions of arms come from the blue along the bottom and side.  In one hand, a shallow bowl holds the petals being crushed.  In the other hand, a wide wooden pestle is gripped as it pushes into the petals.  On that hand are a stack of bracelets around the wrist.

Readers will be enthralled with the information and its presentation in Blue: A History Of The Color As Deep As The Sea And As Wide As The Sky written by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond with artwork by Daniel Minter.  At the close of the book is an author's note, a section titled Want To Explore More, A Few Blue Facts, and a Selected Bibliography.  I believe you will want to have a copy of this outstanding title in both your personal and professional collections. 

To discover more about Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond and Daniel Minter and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Daniel Minter has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior illustrations.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Defying The Forces Of Nature

Whether the court is inside or outside, it is there.  It does not matter if you are a member of the team or of the spectators, you sense it.  It is always there regardless of the level of the game, high school, college or professional.  It's there during a three-on-three tournament in a capital city.  When you and the people in your neighborhood play it at the park or in someone's yard, it is there.  You can't hear it, but you feel it.  It silently swirls around the sounds of hands slapping on balls and balls bouncing on hard surfaces.  

It is excitement and anticipation and the possibility of witnessing something unexpected.  This is the game of basketball.  The Legend of Gravity: A Tall Basketball Tale (Farrar Straus Giroux, January 4, 2022) written and illustrated by Charly Palmer elevates the excitement, anticipation and possibility to the height of legend.  You not only want to believe it is true, you believe it to be true.

I've heard you young folks talking about who is the best ballplayer
to ever grace the court.  Like that"King James" someone or
other.  He's not too shabby.

                                      But have you ever heard of Gravity?

An initially unnamed narrator goes on to explain that Gravity is a phenomenal player not the force that keeps everything anchored to earth.  As the story goes, one day toward the end of June, when some players, Liquid, Sky High, and Left 2 Right, were on the local outside court, a new kid strolled up to the group.  He wanted to join them in a three-on-three.

When Liquid threw him the ball, a tad cranky at being stopped in his current discourse, the boy caught it like the superb pass it was not.  The new guy's moves on the court with that ball had the other players standing stone still and quieter than quiet.  When Liquid asked this new player his street name, he said he did not have one.  The narrator gave him the name of Gravity.  And just like that, he was now a member of the playground team, Eagles.

Word spread of his incredible playing abilities.  He once racked up 150 points . . . in the first quarter.  The Eagles through Gravity felt like champions.  They traveled by foot, bike, and bus to other blacktop courts to beat other teams.  Yes, this was a summer to remember!

As the summer came to a close, the "Best of the Best" pickup tournament was to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  For the first time, the Eagles believed they could win.  Their strategy was simple, at all costs get the ball to Gravity.  By Sunday, their hopes were soaring.  The East Side Flyers made it to Sunday, too.  Their players were the stuff of history in the game.

By the time the half of the championship game arrived, the score between the Eagles and the East Side Flyers was tied.  The Eagles's strategy was not working.  Gravity was barely standing.  Not much of a talker, Gravity spoke to his team saying words they would remember for the rest of their lives.  Words which have echoed for decades.  The Eagles were a changed team and that made all the difference.  

You cannot read the words penned by Charly Palmer without feeling a surge of hope.  You know with every phrase, he is building toward the spectacular.  His narrator speaks with the veracity only a firsthand observer could.  This narrator also knows basketball, relating courtside moments like a play-by-play sports commentator.  The decription of the street names of the players on both of the championship teams and what they represent are marvelous.  Here are two passages.

We had always been good, but we had never won a 
championship.  We thought Gravity would be our missing
link.  Truth be told, he was often a one-man show.  Gravity
once jumped so high that we were able to go out for ice
cream before he came down.

Yusef "Spider"
Woodruff had
hands so quick,
you'd swear he
had eight of them.

When you open the matching dust jacket and book case, you see on the front, right side, a portrait of the young man who defied the norm.  His shy confident smile gives us a hint of his on and off court demeanor.  The planets and stars above him are a testament to his capabilities.  The same deep blue mix of colors on the front travels over the spine to the left, the back of the jacket and case.  Here three sentences from the text invite readers to learn about Gravity.  Between the text is a drawing within the circle of a basketball.  It features the hands of the players in solidarity before a tip-off.

The opening and closing endpapers are in basketball orange.  On the title page, a basketball is at rest on an outside court.  The verso and first page are a bird's eye view of the city of Milwaukee.  The subsequent images are a blend of full-page and double-page pictures.  Sometimes a series of smaller visuals are included on a single page to show a succession of quick moments on the court.  Other times double pages are divided into panels.

The bold, bright colors selected by Charly Palmer work beautifully with the bold strokes of his brush.  His paintings reflect shadows and light drawing our attention to the characters, especially to Gravity.  Charly Palmer might add explanatory words with his images to further define the text.

We are given intimate views of the art of basketball playing.  In one illustration, the foreground shows us tennis shoes and the lower half of Gravity's legs with silhouettes of other players in the background.  In another image we stand back a bit to watch players meeting during a game and devising a plan of play.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  On the left, five members of the Eagles have collected on the court, holding ice cream cones.  They are looking up at Gravity.  His body is far above them, legs spread in a jump.  One hand is posed for balance.  The other hand holds the basketball.  Some celestial bodies are near Gravity.  To the right of the players and across the gutter is the darkness of space and colorful planets.  Gravity has indeed eluded gravity.

In his debut as both author and illustrator, Charly Palmer with The Legend of Gravity: A Tall Basketball Tale showcases a game many people love to play and watch.  His words and artwork capture the true spirit of this sport, especially as it is played in outside parks and playgrounds.  In an author's note at the end, Charly Palmer speaks about streetball legends and this book being a dedication to them.  This title will resonate with most readers of all ages.  It is read-aloud gold.  I highly recommend you have a copy on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Charly Palmer and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Charly Palmer has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.