Quote of the Month

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

Monday, May 23, 2022

Finding Fearlessness

Fear always finds a way to wiggle into our lives.  Most of us have one thing that escapes our bravery.  Some fears seem as though they've been a part of us from the beginning.  Other worries are sneakier.  Seemingly, all of a sudden, what we once did without a thought, we now avoid.

Sometimes those things we dread, old and new, are vanquished.  The answer to dispelling them may be closer than we can know.  Courage Hats (Chronicle Books, March 22, 2022) written by Kate Hoefler with illustrations by Jessixa Bagley follows two individuals as they face fear in their own, but same, unique manner. 

Not everyone loves a train.
That's the world.

Even though trains are not a favorite mode of travel, sometimes you have to ride one to get where you are going.  Mae, a little girl, did not want to ride a train.  Bear, a younger bear, did not want to ride a train.  Mae did not want to go through forests where bears lived.  Bear did not want to go where people resided in the cities.

Mae and Bear decide to make their own courage.  They make hats to wear.  Mae's hat makes her look like a bear.  Bear's hat makes him look like a person.

Bear and Mae find each other on the train.  Bear looks like a grown-up human and Mae looks like a cub.  Each is comfortable with the other one.

They play with Mae's tea set.  They eat Bear's snacks.  Every moment they spend together sharing what they see from the train windows expands their view of the world in the forest and the city.  At their destination, several surprises are revealed.

The simple sentences penned by Kate Hoefler resonate with truth.  The use of identical words in different order supply readers with the similarity between the girl and the bear.  The repetition of phrases uttered by each with small word changes further binds the duo.  Each faces their fear by discovering togetherness eases that worry.  The cadence provided by Kate Hoefler's words is not unlike that of a train moving down the tracks.  Here is a passage.

No matter how you feel about a train,
someone else feels the same way.

You're lucky if that someone has a blanket and snack.

When you open the dust jacket, the design of the sides of the train extends flap edge to flap edge.  The train windows continue on the back, with the only break being the spine.  Bear is not the only animal riding the rails.  To the left of the spine, on the back, a wild boar is reading a book opposite a human male passenger.  A male deer with antlers is seated opposite the writer we see on the front, right side, of the jacket.  Truthfully, Bear and Mae wearing their hats and smiling as they watch the world pass outside the train is pure happiness.

On the book case, the train design is used again.  On the front, right side, we see Bear walking to the left as does Mae seen through another window.  On the back, three bunnies are looking outside as another person writes.  In the final portion of a window, on the left, a bear wearing a hat is resting.

The opening endpapers in purple with white polka-dots is the same pattern on Mae's headband.  On the closing endpapers, in lavender with white polka-dots, we see the same markings as on Bear's blanket.  On the verso and dedication page, we are looking at the top portion of Bear and Mae in their hats along the bottom of the page.

Illustrator Jessixa Bagley used

graphite and watercolor

to render these pictures.  Each page turn presents readers with a double-page or single-page image, edge to edge, or a single-page visual in a circular shape with elements outside the frame.  In several illustrations, Jessixa Bagley alters her perspective giving us a bird-eye view outside and inside the train.  There are also several wordless images, a group of four smaller pictures, a double-page image, and a single-page illustration.  These are wonderful dramatic pauses.

The textures in each illustration are soft and inviting.  The full-color pictures are full of fine lines and delicate details.  Readers are certain to enjoy the variety of expressions on the faces of Mae and Bear.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  In the foreground, close to us, are the backs of Bear's and Mae's heads, hands and paws resting on the window sills, as they watch the world outside the train. (They are still wearing their hats.) It is a pastoral landscape with rolling hills in shades of green, golden yellow, and brown.  Birds fly in both directions across a pale blue sky.

We are reminded in this book, Courage Hats written by Kate Hoefler with artwork by Jessixa Bagley, there is usually someone needing the same kind of bravery we are seeking.  The rhythmic words, at times lyrical observations, paired with the wonderful drawings and paintings will find a permanent place in many readers' hearts.  You will want to place a copy of this book in both your personal and professional collections.

Author Kate Hoefler has an account on Instagram.  To learn more about Jessixa Bagley and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Jessixa Bagley has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  This book is highlighted by librarian and writer John Sch on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  You will love his conversation with both Kate Hoefler and Jessixa Bagley.  Author, reviewer, and blogger, Julie Danielson features this book on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Kate Hoefler is interviewed about this book on Max's Boat.  At the publisher's website, you can see more interior images.

At times, overwhelmed, we decide to walk away from a challenge.  It is easier and more favorable than an uncertain outcome.  We believe we are not what is expected of us.  In their collaboration, Mac Barnett & Marla Frazee Present The Great Zapfino (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, April 5, 2022), this duo encourages us to take a leap (literally) of faith in our abilities.


A ringmaster announces the death-defying deed The Great Zapfino is about to perform.  Climbing a ladder to a platform ten stories in the air, this man will leap and land on a small trampoline.  The audience barely breathes watching Zapfino climb the ladder.

Zapfino, clad in striped clothing and wearing a cape, stands on the edge of the diving board.  He stands there and stands there.  He does not leap.  He climbs back down and runs far and fast from the circus.  He boards a plane and flies to a new seaside city.  There, he takes a job in a tall building as the elevator operator.

Zapfino is good at his job, chatting with people and making friends to and from each floor.  At night, he enjoys in his small room a meal of toast before looking out his window from the top floor.  Day in and day out, he finds himself loving his job and his simple afternoons and evenings.

One late afternoon, he falls asleep before taking the toast out of the toaster.  It catches on fire, filling his room with smoke.  He knows the only way to avoid disaster is through his window.  The fire department has arrived.  Below, the firepeople hold a small trampoline.  We have come full circle.


This narrative conceived by Mac Barnett is as stunning as the described and realized feat of Zapfino.  The majority of the text is found in the ringmaster's introduction of this circus performer prior to his 


This introduction allows us to see what potential is within Zapfino, waiting to be released.  Two other times the word Zapfino appears alone and then along with the single word which asks us to pause and observe.  Here is a single sentence from the ringmaster's opening.

Zapfino will dodge peril
and brave calamity in an impossible
feat of derring-do!

Beginning on the matching and open dust jacket and book case, the artwork

rendered in black Primacolor pencil on Dura-Lar matte film

for all the images in this title by Marla Frazee is a fantastic feast for our minds and hearts.  The billowing curtain proclaiming The Great Zapfino is pulled aside by a man who is unsure of his greatness.  On the front the text is raised to the touch.  On the back, on a soft white background, is Zapfino walking toward an as-yet-unknown destination.  He is carrying a box that appears to hold a toaster.  In the other hand, he holds a bag of bread.  His cape with the large "Z" floats behind him.

The opening and closing endpapers are a matte black finish.  On the title page, Zapfino stands before the circus tent opening.  Above the opening is the title text and the author and illustrator names.

With every page turn, we find scenes in various perspectives in the signature style of Marla Frazee.  A small Zapfino walks into the enormous tent.  As he climbs higher on the ladder, the trampoline, ringmaster and audience get smaller and smaller.   In the first depiction of him on the end of the diving board, the last sentence is read.  This is the moment of Zapfino's decision.  This is the moment the wordless images of Marla Frazee tell a impressive pictorial story.

For his thinking about whether to leap or not there is a series of six small pictures.  In the last one, the facial expression of Zapfino really does speak volumes.  In each subsequent scene, we seek the figure wearing the striped suit and cape.  When he gets the position at the seaside building, his garb during work hours changes.  

To show his success as an elevator operator, nine small illustrations on a single page portray the interior of the elevator and the array of people Zapfino services.  Exquisite details depict the inside of his room and how his afternoons and evenings unfold.  The next time his work is presented to us, it is a series of twenty interior views of the elevator.  (No wonder he falls asleep without taking the toast out of his toaster.)  The two-page picture of smoke swirling from the window of Zapfino's room as he stands on the ledge outside his top-floor residence with all the tiny people below will take your breath away.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture.  We are shown the top five floors of the building at night.  Stars cover the sky on the right.  The last window on the top floor has a light shining in it.  Zapfino, head up, leans out the window, enjoying the night.  He is a man at peace.

Readers of all ages, individuals and groups, will request to read Mac Barnett & Marla Frazee Present The Great Zapfino over and over again.  Each time you read it, the thrill of Zapfino's success will warm you from the top of your head to the tip of your toes.  Readers understand fear disappears when it needs to the most.  I highly recommend you place a copy of this title in your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Mac Barnett and Marla Frazee and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Mac Barnett has an account on Instagram.  Marla Frazee has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Please enjoy this interview of Marla Frazee at KidLit411.  This title is showcased at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  The interview with Marla Frazee is fabulous as are all the process pictures and artwork.  (WOW!)  This book in a conversation with Barnett and Frazee is featured on NPR Picture This.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior illustrations including the open dust jacket.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Through The Four

For those fortunate enough to live in an area experiencing all four seasons, in the northern hemisphere spring seems to have finally arrived.  There have been several mornings in the last ten days without frost on rooftops.  Grass is greening and growing. Tiny buds are appearing on shrubs and trees.  Shoots are pushing through the soil in gardens and forest floors.  The first flowers of spring from bulbs like daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, or crocus are blooming.  The birds are back with all their various melodies.  The sun is rising earlier and setting later.  And we are experiencing warmer than normal temperatures.

All living things are embracing this change.  People of all ages are outside biking, walking, and working in their yards and gardens.  You can hear the sound of children talking and laughing as they ride their scooters or shoot basketballs at a neighbor's hoop.  A wonderful new title to help us enjoy this spring and the other three seasons is My Big Book Of Outdoors (Candlewick Studio, an imprint of Candlewick Press, March 29, 2022) written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood.  It is a lively look at spring, summer, fall, and winter and all each season has to offer.

On the title page, beneath the title text it reads:

Welcome! In every season, there is something different to see, discover, make, and do.  So step outdoors and into nature.

Following the title page, two pages are dedicated to an extensive table of contents with page numbers.  For each season's introduction a double-page picture provides a place for listing, on the left, six phrases, observations about that season.  The next two pages are devoted to 

Signs Of_________.
For those up at sunrise in the spring, we are given descriptions of six birds we might see or hear.  We are asked to notice birds building nests.  This is followed by an activity where we can create our own nest out of chocolate.  (Yum!)  Eggs and feathers of birds are later discussed.

We explore bugs, building a bug hotel, soil we can see and soil we can't see.  Do you know how a tadpole becomes a frog?  Can you tell the difference between a frog and a toad? Have you ever been pond dipping?

During summer, the insect populations explode.  We are given pictures of fifteen insects with their names.  How many have you seen?  Do you know how an egg turns into a butterfly?  You can enjoy painting your own butterfly before eight butterflies are displayed and identified.

Bees and their purpose are disclosed.  Dandelions, sunflowers, and daisies are a part of our explorations and things to do.  Fruits and vegetables of summer are portrayed and labeled.  For those near an ocean or sea or those who make a trip to either, what can you discover in a tide pool or along the sandy shore?

The signs of autumn most visible are the changing colors of leaves.  We can still distinguish between eight leaves by their shapes.  Trees shed seeds which the fall winds carry.  (Our area has a gazillion maple seeds now sprouting in lawns and gardens.)  Squirrels are getting ready for winter building shelters and storing food.  We are presented with two thoughtful pages on the power of a single acorn.  

Fruit is being harvested and used in delicious recipes like baked apples.  How many apples can you name?  If you look to the skies you can see birds leaving on their annual migration routes and cloud formations predicting the weather.

As the chill of winter descends, some birds stay the course.  Which ones of those shown are in your area?  Winter walks in snow reveal tracks of wild travelers.  I spy deer and rabbit prints of the six shown.  Two pages show a dormouse and a hedgehog hibernating.  Some facts about each are shared.

Do you know the name of trees which retain their leaves regardless of the season? Five conifers are represented as well as seven different pine cones.  Did you know pine cones are natural humidity detectors? Four pages speak about snow and snowflakes along with an activity.  To close out the section on winter we look to the skies again, studying stars and the phases of the moon.

The enthusiasm Tim Hopgood has for this subject is evident in every chosen word and every written sentence.  Although the specific topics covered in each season vary, their presentation is similar enough to create a pleasing and welcoming rhythm for readers.  There are the previously mentioned introductory phrases, the signs of pages, topics and matching activities and several poems.  These are woven together seamlessly in each season through informal and informational conversations and abundant labeling.  Here is a passage and a poem.

Cool Places
Stones block out wind and
sunshine and keep the ground
cool, dark, and damp---the
perfect place for insects to
live.  Insects with hard shells
can push under stones to find
food and shelter.

Splish Splash!

drip, drop

drip, drop


The bright turquoise blue sky stretches from flap edge to flap edge on the open dust jacket.  Swirls of startling white clouds are spread across that sky.  The vivid splashes of color seen in the insects and flowers (butterfly on the right and ladybug on the left) also extend to the flap edges.  The ladybug on the left is flying above a large, colorful cluster of flowers.  The ISBN is placed in the center of a white flower.  The title text is varnished.

On the book case it is as if we are looking at a natural exhibit.  The background is dark in hues of blue and green and black.  From left to right on the open case, we are presented with an egg, ladybug, snowdrops, sea creatures, leaves, a butterfly, an acorn, a feather, a snowflake, a mushroom, a pinecone, a moth, a snail, worms, and another kind of nut.  The ISBN is placed inside a white leaf.

On the opening and closing endpapers, on a canvas of pristine white, is a close-up of a honey bee.  It is flying over a gorgeous array of flowers.  They are turquoise, pink, white and yellow, orange, and yellow.  Bits of green appear toward the bottom.  On the verso and title pages is a two-page image.  It is a close-up of grasses and a leaf.  Featured are a snail, an ant, a ladybug, and a caterpillar.  The dedication reads:

For everyone who stayed
indoors in 2020


mixed media

every page turn depicts either a two-page picture or a single-page visual.  Tim Hopgood takes us close to a topic such as his conversation about ants.  Here we are viewing their activities via a cross-section.  In support of a sentence and a question in the section about fall, we are privy to a forest landscape.  Many different types of flora and fauna are present in this vista done in warm shades of autumn.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the Signs of Winter section.  It is a two-page picture.  There are white and black silhouettes.  Evergreen boughs, tree trunks, shrubs, and spider webs are in frosty white.  There are several black tree trunks.  On the left side is a winter sky with brighter stars.  A black bird rests in branches covered in red berries.  On the right side, snow swirls.  An icy blue area indicates a frozen pond.  This is a marvelous collage of winter wonders.

Not only is My Big Book Of Outdoors written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood brimming with information, activities, and stunning artwork, but it is an ode to nature.  Your appreciation for the outdoor world will grow with every supplied observation.  You will want to have a copy in both your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Tim Hopgood and his other work, please access his website by following the link attached to his name.  At his website, there are many images from this book to view.  Tim Hoppgood has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior illustrations.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Lofty And Lovable

For imaginative minds, they are a medium for wondrous works of art.  They provide shade from sweltering sunshine.  If you are looking for predictors of weather, they are highly accurate.  As a part of one of this planet's cycles, they ensure the continuance of life.

And, they make the most splendid best friends.  Lizzy and the Cloud (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, May 3, 2022) written and illustrated by The Fan Brothers expands our thinking by exploring a fantastical "what-if" scenario.  Lizzy and readers discover nature is a willing teacher if we are ready to learn.

It was Saturday.
Every Saturday, Lizzy went
for a walk with her parents.

People, young and old, gathered at the park on Saturdays.  Rather than ride on the carousel, watch a juggler or a puppet show, or enjoy the fountain or canopy of large trees, Lizzy quickly hurried toward the Cloud Seller.  Floating on the subtle breeze like balloons, clouds on strings in all shapes and sizes were held by the man.  All Lizzy wanted was the most ordinary of clouds. 

In her bedroom at home, Lizzy read over the instructions for cloud care.  There was a list of eight.  The first item was to name your cloud.  Lizzy named her cloud Milo.

Lizzy, consistently and carefully, followed each direction. She watered Milo and took him for walks with her parents.  Milo loved rainy weather.  As the seasons passed, Milo grew and grew and grew.  Lizzy could not seem to stop Milo from growing.  He filled the ceiling in her room.

That night, Milo reacted as could be expected and Lizzy remembered item number eight.  In the morning, Lizzy did not need a list to know what to do.  Her heart was speaking to her.  Milo would always be a part of Lizzy.  Friends are.  Upward.

The imaginations of The Fan Brothers, Eric Fan and Terry Fan, are like those of cloud watchers.  They see beauty and possibilities when they look to the skies.  Their words take us to a time and place just beyond reality.  With two words, Cloud Seller, we know this story is going to be extraordinary.  Simple, profound declarative sentences and phrases wrap around us, bringing us into this story of a girl and her cloud.  They leave room for our minds to grow like Milo and for the artwork to elevate the narrative.  Here is a passage.

The clouds bobbed gently up and down
with every breath of wind.
Some were puffy and round.
Others were wispy and almost-not-there.
There was a parrot, a rabbit, a fish, and
an elephant . . . .

Using a muted color palette, The Fan Brothers take us into Lizzy's world.  The soft green shown on the open dust jacket extends flap edge to flap edge.  We meet Lizzy and her cloud on the front highlighted with bright spots of yellow and the hint of a rainbow.  To the left, on the back, we are inside Lizzy's home.  Our eyes are drawn to a coat tree.  There hangs Lizzy's rain gear.  Her boots are next to the tree.  On the dust jacket, front and back, Lizzy, her rain gear, and the title text are varnished.

On the book case, the background is the same delicate hue.  To the left of the yellow spine is the coat tree.  On it hangs Lizzy's winter coat and yellow scarf.  A bit of snow is on the floor.  There are Lizzy's charcoal-colored boots.  On the front of the book Lizzy stands with her cloud.  The cloud is snowing on Lizzy.  Her scarf is wrapped around her lower face.  She is wearing a fur-trimmed hat, her plaid coat and fur-trimmed boots.  She stands in a pile of snow.  It is not snowing anywhere else.

On the opening and closing endpapers is the patterned wallpaper used in Lizzy's home.  Together there are twenty-three different framed portraits and photographs on the walls.  As you look at each one, you wonder at their significance.

These illustrations  

rendered in pencil and colored digitally

envelope you everywhere you look.  We immediately feel a tenderness for Lizzy.  We love seeing her small teddy bear resting on a pillow on her bed.  We wonder about a little girl who loves orchids, plants, and ferns.  We sense a security in her life with the walks she takes with her parents to the park, through their town, and on trips to the beach.

The Fan Brothers alternate their image sizes.  There are full-page pictures, double-page images, several smaller images on a single page with no words, and double-page visuals with no words.  Perspectives shift.  Sometimes we are given a panoramic view as when Lizzy and her parents enter the park or walk down Main Street in the evening.  Other times we are very close.  When Lizzy is reading

Caring for Your Cloud

all we see are her hands and the yellow piece of paper.  The choices by the brothers to use color or not are intentional and brilliant.  Knowing them, I savored every image looking for extra details.  (Hello, William.)  Oh, and their details are exquisite, simply stunning.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a two-page picture.  It is nighttime.  Outside one of Lizzy's bedroom windows we can see it is a full moon night.  Inside her room the cloud is darkening and there is a small bolt of lightning.  On the left side, Lizzy stands wearing her yellow rain gear.  She is looking up and holding a bucket as it begins to rain in her room.  Among her plants on the right side are pots, pans, and dishware ready to hold the rain.  There are also cups, bowls, and a glass on her bed.  Her teddy bear is sitting upright.  The use of light and shading in this image is excellent.

Whether this title is read by individuals or as a read aloud with a group, you will hear requests for "read it again."  There will be discussions about pets, friendship, care, and knowing when the right thing needs to be done.  I believe there will be an increased interest in clouds, too.  Lizzy and the Cloud written and illustrated by The Fan Brothers, Eric Fan and Terry Fan, is one to have in every personal and professional collection.

To learn more about The Fan Brothers and their other work, please follow the link attached to their name to access their website.  The Fan Brothers have an account on FacebookEric Fan has an account on Facebook as does Terry FanEric Fan and Terry Fan have accounts on Instagram.  The Fan Brothers have an account on Instagram.  Eric Fan has an account on Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.  There are more illustrations to see at The Fan Brother's website.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Early Reader Extravaganza #2

As mentioned in a previous post, Early Reader Extravaganza, when we first learn to read our perceptions about our world change.  We gobble up words to quench a hunger.  It is a hunger to know, to understand, to explore, to travel to places real and imagined, to have sensory experiences, to laugh, to cry, to have our hearts warmed, broken and healed and to meet people like us and completely different from us.  We feed this hunger as early readers by bonding with what we find within the pages of books; whether it is information satisfying our curiosity or characters and their situations that actively engage us.

For lovers of canines, two new early reader series supply loads of laughter and the antics of dogs living their best lives.  Doggo And Pupper (Feiwel and Friends, March 23, 2021) and Doggo and Pupper Save The World (Feiwel and Friends, March 22, 2022) written by Katherine Applegate with illustrations by Charlie Alder take us into the home of an older dog living with a cat.  Their humans decide to introduce another dog, a younger dog, into the family.  The results are comedic to say the least.

Chapter One
Same Old, Same Old

Every night Cat asked,
How was your day,

Every night Doggo said,
"Same old, same old."

Then he would wink at the 
smiling moon and say, "Could have
been worse."

In support of his same old, same old assessment, Doggo in rhyming two word phrases, seven couplets, describes his day.  He is quick to point out the value of quenching thirst and dispelling tiredness.  To up the funny factor, we discover what Doggo does when his humans are absent.

The subsequent six chapters reveal how Doggo's humans decide to add pep and purpose to his days.  Cat reminds and warns Doggo of the dire consequences of human intervention.  The presence of Pupper changes everything.  Doggo's days are wild because Pupper is wild.  Pupper needs to go to charm school.  He is not happy about this apparent requirement.

Upon his return, his humans are pleased with his behavior.  Doggo is pleased, too.  Cat is the first to point out that Pupper may have lost his wild ways, but he is hardly happy.  That night Doggo is the one with an idea.

His sleepy humans allow Doggo to take the car keys.  Road trip!  Pupper and Doggo play and play and play. Would you believe they went to a drive-in movie?  The duo silently sneak back inside their home.  Cat has a few things to say the next day.  Doggo replies with a familiar refrain.

Chapter One

In a sweet spot of sun,
Doggo dozed.
In a fine patch of dirt,
Pupper dug.
Life was good.

When Pupper spots a bird and her fledglings, he declares his desire to fly like Wonder Dog.  He also expresses his fear of giant squirrels.  Pupper believes he cannot be a hero because he worries.  Doggo says Pupper does not need to fly to be a hero.

When their humans leave, Doggo, Pupper, and Cat watch a hero show on television.  Pupper needs someone to save.  Doggo picks the next show reminding him of his days in a rock band.  Pupper decides being a hero might be less work than learning to be a drummer, but . . .

Pupper drums and drums and drums for more than a week.  Cat is not happy.  When Doggo announces a band is playing in the park the next day, Pupper can hardly wait to go.  He is also distracted by the baby birds learning to fly.

The next morning on their way to the park, Pupper hears a chirping in some nearby bushes.  Is it giant squirrels?  It is one of the baby birds.  It is all alone.  Pupper knows the baby bird needs saving.  The band is starting to play, but Pupper and Doggo wait until their work is done.  As the dog duo savor the remaining hours of the day, they understand several things about music and heroes.  We do, too.

Using a blend of short narrative phrases and sentences and lively canine/feline conversations, Katherine Applegate entertains readers from beginning to end.  The interactions between Doggo and Pupper (and Cat) convey bits of wisdom, each character informing the other through their personalities.  And in these short narrative phrases and sentences, conversations, and interactions, there is laugh-out-loud hilarity.  Katherine Applegate also uses rhyming and alliteration when it is appropriate.  This technique invites readers into the stories.  Here are two passages, one from each title.

"Watch out, Doggo," said Cat one day.  "I
think the humans have an idea."
She licked a paw.  "Remember the last time
they had an idea?

Doggo remembered.

It was not pretty.

They turned a corner.
The breeze was soft.

It smelled like ice cream.
It held happy voices.

Illustrator Charlie Alder using

a combination of collage and digital techniques

fashioned the full-color illustrations on the book case and throughout the book.  Doggo and Pupper are showcased in the center on the front of both books.  On the back of the book case, amid text you would normally find on the front and back end flaps of a dust jacket, Doggo, Pupper, and Cat are doing what they do best, enjoying each other and life.  The characters and title text on the front of both books are varnished.

The opening and closing endpapers in the first title are a darker shade of sky blue.  In the second title, the endpapers are the same darker orange we see on the front of the book case.  After the title and verso pages, a contents page is supplied in both books.  Small images are on these pages; a reflection of the characters and their activities in the chapters.

Opposite each chapter page is a full-page picture alluding to the chapter revelations.  Throughout the books, the illustrations vary in size to complement the pacing of the narrative.  There are two-page images, single-page pictures, edge to edge or surrounded by white space, groups of smaller images on one or two pages, framed and unframed, and there are vertical panels and horizontal panels.  We are usually close to the characters which makes us feel a part of the story.

The expressions on the faces of the characters depict their every emotion.  Some of the details, like Cat drinking through a long, striped curly straw, will have you giggling at the very least.  All we see of the humans are portions of their bodies.  We never see their faces.

One of my many favorite illustrations from Doggo And Pupper is a series of four images for the above-noted text.  In the first image, Doggo is dressed like a ghost for Halloween.  Cat, on top of a pumpkin, is howling with laughter.  Doggo is wearing a yellow and white polka-dotted raincoat and booties in the second scene.  In the third picture, Doggo's fur, ears, and tail are tied in a series of colorful bows.  Doggo has been trimmed to the max in the final visual.  Portions of Doggo's body are dyed pink to make it appear as if Doggo is a ballerina.  

One of my many favorite illustrations from Doggo And Pupper Save The World is a double-page picture.  It is a close-up of them finding the tiny bird, the fledgling, under the bushes.  Pupper is peeking through the bushes on the left near the bird.  Doggo has his head through the bushes on the right.  We feel as though we are a part of this moment with them.

These two titles, Doggo And Pupper and Doggo And Pupper Save The World written by Katherine Applegate with artwork by Charlie Alder, are stellar early reader books.  At the close of the first book is a list titled Doggo's Guide to Puppies.  These ten items speak simple truths about puppies.  At the end of the second book is another list of ten thoughts to guide readers.  They are titled Pupper's Guide to Being a Hero.  I highly recommend this series for your professional and personal collections.  You might want more than one copy of each.

To learn more about Katherine Applegate and Charlie Alder and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Katherine Applegate has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Charlie Alder has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images for Doggo And Pupper and Doggo And Pupper Save The World.

This second series of books highlights a character older readers already know.  His name is Fenway, a Jack Russell terrier.  He made a name for himself in the upper elementary/middle grade novels, Fenway and Hattie, Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang, Fenway and Hattie Up to New Tricks, and Fenway and Hattie In the Wild.  With each title, readers are able to see the progress as Fenway and his human grow better together.  In Fenway And The Bone Thieves (G. P. Putnam's Sons, May 3, 2022) and Fenway And The Frisbee Trick (G. P. Putnam's Sons, May 3, 2022) written by Victoria J. Coe with illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, Fenway is still offering his spot-on insights in his own voice about his next-door neighbor dog friends, his humans, sneaky squirrels, and the elusive Frisbee.


Everyone knows that dogs are
better than squirrels.  Dogs make
humans happy.  Dogs live
in houses.  Dogs
ride in cars.
Squirrels do
none of these

In this first of ten chapters, Fenway and his humans, Hattie, Food Lady, and Fetch Man are visiting the large store filled with special things for dogs.  All Fenway can think about is treats.  His humans steer clear of the treat section, adding yucky shampoo to the cart.  It is only through sheer perseverance on Fenway's part, that a bone is added to the cart.  Unfortunately, it ends up in the trunk of the car instead of his mouth.

Finally at home, with the bone in his mouth, Fenway shows his treasure to his neighbors, Patches and Goldie, two dogs enjoying their Dog Park next to Fenway's Dog Park.  Then, Fenway hears a horrible and irritating sound.  It is the chattering of not one but two squirrels.  They are plotting to take away his bone.  After successfully chasing them away, Fenway decides the only way to enjoy his bone is to hide it from the squirrels.

After lunch, the rain begins.  Fenway is inside without his bone.  Now he is thinking his big idea is not such a good idea.  Nothing, not a single toy or game, can take away Fenway's desire for that bone, buried in the garden, outside in the rain.

The next morning when the rain has stopped, Fenway can hardly wait to get outside and dig up his bone.  There are two huge problems.  He can't remember where he buried it and the pesky squirrels are back.  Many holes later, Hattie and her friend Angel, Patches' and Goldie's short human, discover the damage done by Fenway.  As they chase him, he initially thinks it's a game, but it is most definitely not a game.  

After a flowery shampoo, a nap complete with a squirrel nightmare, and another encounter with the sneaky squirrels in his Dog Park, Fenway makes a startling discovery.  His perspective on the several days of the events are destined to have readers laughing and laughing.  As he is finally chewing on his bone on the back porch, he gets a whiff of hot dogs.  Yum!


Romping in the Dog Park behind
our house is pretty awesome.  But
riding in the car with Hattie and 
Fetch Man is even better, because
we're going to the Big Park.

Fenway is having a rousing romp with Hattie and Fetch man in the Big Park.  He loves chasing after the stick and returning it, sometimes reluctant to give it to Fetch Man.  But that is all part of the game.  Just when Fenway thinks the day can't get any better, he spots a Rottweiler leaping into the air to catch a Frisbee.

Fenway wishes with all his doggy heart he could do the same trick as Carmen.  She is amazing at jumping in the air at the right moment.  He tries to do her moves with a stick.  It does not work.  He needs a Frisbee.

No one seems to understand this need, not Hattie or Patches and Goldie.  What's a dog to do?  Several days later the Big Brown Truck arrives.  After Fenway barks it away, Food Lady, Hattie and Fenway gather around a box.  What do you think is inside?  

Fenway and Hattie rush outside so Fenway can catch that new Frisbee in the air.  He is so ready to perform a trick and receive the same praise as Carmen.  All of a sudden there are the sounds of 


Later, a frustrated Fenway, who has not caught the Frisbee yet because of the sneaky squirrels, goes on a walk with his canine pals and their humans.  Back home, Fenway convinces Hattie to throw the Frisbee in the house where there are no squirrel distractions.  As you might imagine, it ends in disaster.  That evening is very somber, but Fenway fails to understand.  The next day at the Big Park, unintentionally, Fenway creates his own special trick.  Try to read this without laughing.  It is impossible.  Oh, Fenway.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again.  Author Victoria J. Coe knows dogs, especially this dog, Fenway.  Each of the ten chapters in each book flows flawlessly with the same energy as if the words were written by a Jack Russell terrier.  The chapters end with a sentence inviting us to proceed with anticipation to the next chapter.  The upbeat narrative, Fenway's thoughts and conversations and those of the humans are thoughtful, exuberant, and funny.  Here are passages from both titles.

behind me.
Uh-oh! The first squirrel is
headed this way!  I should have 
known the two of them were in this 
I run faster.  "That bone is
mine!" I bark.
The big squirrel waits until I'm 
about to lunge.  Then he suddenly
hops up and scampers across the
Dog Park.
The chase is on!  "You don't
belong here!" I bark.  I follow
that squirrel 
to the wooden
fence behind
the giant tree.

I thrust my snout into the box.
Whoopee! It smells like a Frisbee
that no other dogs have played
with.  It must be my reward for
scaring away that truck.
Hattie reaches into the box and
pulls it out.  "Ready, Fenway?" she
I back up.  "I'm ready!" I bark.
"I'm so ready!"
Hattie's elbow bends.  She's going
to fling the Frisbee!
I leap onto the couch, racing
back and forth.  Hooray!  Hooray!
I'm going to catch that Frisbee in

You cannot look at the front, right side, of the matching and open dust jacket and book case for either book without smiling.  Who can resist the happy-go-lucky look on Fenway's face?  In both of these scenes, it is as if the illustrator has frozen a moment from the narrative.  The back, left side, of both books features short descriptions of the books beneath the series title, Make Way For Fenway.  Hanging from those banners is a bone-shaped dog tag with the words:

A little dog with a
GIANT personality!

The opening and closing endpapers for both books are creamy white, the same as the interior pages.  Illustrator Joanne Lew-Vriethoff has filled this book with images of varying sizes done in black, gray, and white.  With the exception of only two, Fenway makes an appearance in all of them.

The vibrancy of Fenway's personality is reflected in the artwork.  Even when he is still, it is as if he is ready to burst into action.  Readers will pause at every illustration to appreciate the details included in the pictures.  The facial looks on Fenway, the squirrels, Carmen, Patches, Goldie, and the humans leave no doubt as to what any of them are thinking.  You can't help but smile, giggle, or laugh out loud.

In Fenway And The Bone Thieves, one of my favorite pictures is a double-page image with a phrase and two sentences placed in the upper, left-hand corner.  On the left side a big squirrel with a gleam in its eyes, protruding teeth, and a big fluffy tail is ready to pounce on Fenway's bone which extends from the left side and over the gutter to the right.  Toward the top of the right side in the Dog Park is Fenway.  Flowers border the wooden fence behind him.  He is aghast at the audacity of that squirrel.  He is ready to run.

One of my favorite visuals in Fenway And The Frisbee Trick is a smaller illustration.  It is a perfectly captured moment by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. (I should know because it happens frequently at my own home.)  The family sofa is placed in front of an arched large window.  Fenway is on the sofa, standing on his hind legs with his front paws on the back of the sofa.  He is watching the man from the Big Brown Truck carrying a package and walking toward their house.  Fenway is barking in full security mode.

To have early readers based on a beloved dog character is, in the words of my canine companion, woof-tastic!  Fenway And The Bone Thieves and Fenway And The Frisbee Trick written by Victoria J. Coe with illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff are brimming with humor and non-stop action whether read by an individual or as a read aloud.  Readers will hardly be able to wait for another installment in the series.  You will certainly need one or more copies of both books in your personal and professional collections.

By following the link attached to the names of Victoria J. Coe and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, you can access their websites to learn more about them and their other work.  Victoria J. Coe has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Joanne Lew-Vriethoff has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images and read an excerpt for Fenway And The Bone Thieves and Fenway And The Frisbee TrickThe cover reveal for these titles with author and illustrator interviews was hosted by educator Michele Knott at Mrs. Knott's Book Nook.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Evolving Into

It is not only determined by a date on the calendar.  The shift from standard time to daylight savings is not a sole indicator.  Its arrival is truly announced by a sound.  It is a sound absent for many months, then one day it returns.  The sound's melody greets the day, surrounds us, and lifts into the sky.

This sound is the chorus of birdsong.  These avian marvels are returning to their homes, some staying and others moving farther north.  They are the true heralds of spring.  To add to the fascination of their essential existence, author illustrator Deborah Freedman in her newest release Tiny Dino (Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, April 19, 2022) explores the direct connection between dinosaurs and birds.

Long ago, there were many kinds of dinosaurs.


After these first few words, readers are asked a question.  A voice replies with

I'm a dinosaur!
I'm a dinosaur!

It is the voice of a hummingbird.

Hummingbird continues to joyfully declare kinship with dinosaurs.  When a turtle friend asks about the stomping and clomping dinosaurs did with their feet, the hummingbird points out the similarities between the toes of a Tyrannosaurus rex and the bird's toes.  Turtle and now friend frog point out the huge toe size and the huge bone size of the dinosaur.

Hummingbird proclaims that both have hollow bones.  Each time Hummingbird's friends suggest what they believe to be a difference, Hummingbird counters that said characteristic is shared.  When pals Turtle, Frog, and Mole state dinosaurs had claws and were fierce, the tiny avian verbally explodes.  Hummingbird is


When a crocodile approaches, Turtle, Frog, and Mole flee.  With all this dinosaur talk, they believe Crocodile to be a dinosaur.  Crocodile says he is not a dinosaur.  Hummingbird agrees, but supplies all the physical features they share.  They are related.  Turtle asks one final question.  Hummingbird shouts out her refrain.

With absolute conversational clarity, author Deborah Freedman takes readers into the story of a hummingbird that proves his truth.  Each time Hummingbird declares he is a dinosaur, one of his friends counters with facts they believe disproves his statement.  He then shows they are wrong with supporting evidence.  In this manner, Deborah Freedman introduces an engaging cadence while providing information about dinosaurs, birds, and other animals.  There are also factual captions next to detailed drawings of relevant, enlarged characteristics.  Here is a passage.

But look---
I have scales
on my toes.

And you 
have scales on
your toes!

Crocodiles and birds have
similar scales, called scutes.
Researchers believe that
feathers evolved from scales!

The image on the dust jacket extends from flap edge to flap edge.  The body of the Tyrannosaurus rex continues over the spine to the far left.  On the left side of the jacket, the back, readers can see one of the dinosaur's feet is holding the ISBN.  The body of the Stegosaurus, similarly stretches to the right flap edge.  Hummingbird is already voicing his truth to the listening trio of featured prehistoric creatures.  The title text and front flap text are varnished.

Hues of light blue, softly textured, are the canvas on the book case.  The Tyrannosaurus rex is outlined in white in the same position as shown on the jacket.  A darker blue dotted loop-de-loop pattern indicates the flight of Hummingbird.  The bird is flying toward the right edge of the front of the book case.  The posture of Hummingbird mirrors determination.

The narrative begins and concludes on the opening and closing endpapers.  The images are wordless.  On the first set Crocodile, Mole, Frog, Turtle and a white bird are moving to the right edge.  A Brontosaurus, also moving to the right, fills both sides.  Above them in a faintly blue sky, a flaming asteroid falls from the left-hand corner.  They are moving through a grassy landscape. On the final endpapers with a faint blue sky and grassy area, Crocodile, Turtle, Frog, and Mole move to the right.  In the sky Hummingbird loops toward the right.  White outlines show us the three dinosaurs showcased on the dust jacket.

Prior to the title page, another illustration has two dinosaurs running as the asteroid gets closer.  On the title page, a question is asked.  Hummingbird answers, three times.  The third answer contains the title text.  Turtle is entering from the right edge.

With each page turn, readers will feel their appreciation growing at the presentation of the story and the information.  Set in pastel watercolor washes are different shaped speech balloons containing the conversations.  When physical traits are compared, those are done in white on blue.  They are intricate.

White space is masterfully used.  It creates pauses in the pacing.  Perspectives shift to furnish us with a sense of being a part of the story.  The majority of the images are double-page pictures.  

One of my many favorite pictures contains a lot of white space.  It spans two pages.  On the far left we see portions of Mole's, Frog's and Turtle's bodies peeking in from the left.  Above them, Hummingbird hovers.  On the far right, just one eye and the large mouth of Crocodile is presented.  (He is coming from the right edge.)  His mouth is open.  Some sharp teeth are depicted.  Crocodile is saying

Pardon me!
Did I hear that dinosaurs
still roam the earth?

Whether this book, Tiny Dino written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman, is read by an individual or as a group read aloud, you can expect to have it read repeatedly.  To have the facts woven artfully in the narrative and images is a gift.  At the close of the book are an author's note and a list of resources.  Even here, Deborah Freedman still educates us while continuing the story along the bottom of both pages.  I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.

To discover more about Deborah Freedman and her other books, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Here is a link to Lesson & Activity Ideas, & Resources made by Deborah Freedman.  Deborah Freedman has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior illustrations.

UPDATE:  Deborah Freedman is interviewed about this title at Writers' Rumpus.  The interview is in-depth and includes her artistic process.  (July 1, 2022)