Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Where There's A Will . . .

It would be hard to spend your life in the state of Michigan without ever crossing a bridge.  Water surrounds us.  The number of times my family crossed the Blue Water Bridge into Canada for summer vacations is lost in memory as is the number of times as a child and adult I've trekked across the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  Today, if I want to get from one side of my community to the other side, I need to cross a bridge.  

The bridge, a double-leaf bascule bridge, crosses the Island Lake Outlet (also known as the Pine River Channel).  This outlet connects the waters of Lake Michigan to Round Lake which leads into Lake Charlevoix.  (Here is a link to the webcam of the bridge activity.)  The bridge opens twice an hour for boats to pass from one body of water to the other.  It's not uncommon to see boats lined up in the channel or lake waiting for the bridge to open.  In Lily Leads the Way (Candlewick Press, May 17, 2022) written by Margi Preus with illustrations by Matt Myers, readers find themselves following the efforts of a special sailboat needing to pass under a bridge.  Readers realize persistence provides great rewards.

Today is a big day for Lily the little sailboat.
A fleet of grand old tall ships is coming to visit.

Lily plans to go out into the lake from the harbor to meet them.  She is polished from bow to stern.  Her lines are in order.  She is in full sail.

To get to the lake, Lily needs to pass under a bridge.  She has a tall mast.  This bridge lifts up for boats and lowers for vehicles on the roadway.  Lily sounds her horn.

An ore boat sounds its horn, rushing toward the bridge.  The bridge responds with another horn.  Lily plans to join the ore boat, but it tells her to move aside.  The bridge lowers before Lily can go under it.

Lily sounds her horn again.  It goes unheard.  This time an ocean-going vessel is coming from the lake to the harbor.  Its horn initiates a response by the bridge.  Lily is tossed aside.  Before she can alter her direction, an assortment of boats take advantage of the bridge being lifted.  Lily is nearly swamped with waves.  Just in the nick of time, she scurries under the bridge.

There, before her, are the tall ships, five different types.  Lily realizes they have no horns to call out to the bridge.  Can Lily finally get the bridge's attention?

Even if you've never been in a sailboat, or any type of boat, through the words of Margi Preus, you connect with this little craft.  The descriptions of Lily, the bridge, the harbor and the other boats by name take us to that day.  The sound effects for each of the horns blown by the boats and the bridge ask us to participate.  The insertion of dialogue by the larger ships adds to the tension Lily (and us) are feeling.  Another technique further involving us in Lily's day is the repetition of the words up and down as the bridge moves.  Here are several consecutive sentences.

A tugboat honks, "Outta my way!"
Flustered, Lily turns the wrong direction,
swaying and bobbing.

When a coast guard cutter chugs by,
its wake heels Lily over!

Readers are treated to a double-page image upon opening the dust jacket.  In full color, the illustration continues over the spine to the left, back, edge.  We can see more of the tall ships coming toward the harbor.  Behind them is the large iron ore boat.  In the background on the left side is a rolling hill dotted with buildings.  The text is varnished.

On the book case is a single picture.  The colors in the sky and water are more turquoise.  The layers of clouds in white and cream supply a striking background.  Waves crest and roll with white foam.  Sailing off the right side is Lily.  All we see is the side of the boat with her name and the Canadian flag fluttering.  We are so close to Lily we feel as though we can reach out and touch her.

A dusty royal blue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the initial title page, we are given a bird's eye view of the harbor, lake, bridge and surrounding land and buildings.  In the distance along the horizon are the tall ships.  A stunning double-page picture for the verso and title pages shows Lily moored to the dock as the sun rises behind the bridge.  The dock and Lily are close to us with the harbor and community filling the page.  An orange, peach, yellow and purple sky spans left to right and is reflected in the water.

Each page turn provides readers with illustrations by Matt Myers rendered

in oil on illustration board.

They are single-page pictures and double-page visuals enhancing the pacing of the narrative.  The details draw us into each scene.  You can smell the water, feel the breeze and warmth of the sun, and hear the horns and seagulls.  Readers will notice the hint of facial features on the boats.  Some readers will notice the Canadian flag remains on the stern of the little sailboat, but the flag on her mast changes often.  What do those flags signify?

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture.  The water is extremely wavy due to all the boat activity.  The bridge is down again, large, front and center on the page.  Behind the crisscross of the bridge's supports is Lily.  She is positioned in a triangle, sounding her horn to have the bridge raised.  To the left and right is the land with the buildings on either side of the harbor.  Large clouds loom in the blue sky.

There is so much to enjoy and discuss about this book, Lily Leads the Way written by Margi Preus with artwork by Matt Myers.  It is a reminder that size does not hinder one's determination to accomplish a goal.  This title will promote research on bridges, boats, and shipping.  There is a one page author's note at the conclusion.  Here is the link to the bridge cam for this bridge.  I highly recommend you place a copy of this informative and delightful title in both your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Margi Preus and Matt Myers and their other work, please follow the link attached to their name to access their websites.  At Margi Preus's website, she has made a video about this book for you to view.  Margi Preus has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Matt Myers has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can download an activity kit.  At Penguin Random House, you can view some interior images.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

In Stillness A Surprise

If and when one is seen, it is like witnessing a miracle.  Whether by design or suddenness, a sighting of these insects is to be remembered.  You will recall the place and the time of year.  This reader can count on one hand the number of times one has been seen.  It has been nearly a decade since the last one was discovered.

As skilled hunters, they sit unmoving and silent.  They become a part of their surroundings.  Their shape and size gives them the appearance of being misplaced in time.  Wait--and See (Candlewick Press, May 10, 2022) written by Helen Frost with photography by Rick Lieder is the sixth collaboration between these two talented creators.  This poetic and pictorial celebration of the praying mantis is also a challenge to readers to adopt a slower pace of living, encouraging us to look with a closer eye at whatever environment in which we find ourselves.

If a quick small
takes you by

You will want to become a statue except for your eyes.  What was that quick movement?  Is there something you nearly missed?  If you are among greenery, you might be near a praying mantis.  

If you are as still as it is, soon you will see this predator capture a meal.  Make sure you remember the shape and size of this praying mantis.  It will help you to spot one in the future.

If you visit this space again, you might notice another event unfolding.  From a brown sac, hundreds of tiny mantises fall.  Will you be able to view their growth?  Be patient.  Be quiet and unmoving.

Rhyming couplets by Helen Frost reveal a world hidden to those who have not yet learned to pause and peer.  In her words, we are asked and reminded of the wondrous riches revealed when we look closer, wait, and be still.  Her text speaks to the characteristics of the praying mantis and the hatching of new praying mantises.  Here is a passage.

Is that a praying mantis,
brown and green,

standing still,
trying not to be seen?

In a word, the photographs we first see on the open dust jacket (and throughout the book) by Rick Lieder are stunning.  They not only showcase his skill but exemplify his ability to wait and see.  The details displayed in his focus and perception take us directly into the world of the praying mantis.

To the left of the spine, on the back, diffused lighting gives us an array of green and gold for a background.  On the left side, our eyes are drawn to a bent stem (or blade of grass).  On the right side, a praying mantis rests on that stem or blade.

The book case is covered in a pale turquoise.  It is almost looks like mint green.  It is bare except for the center of the front.  Here is an embossed praying mantis in the same color.  (Children love to run their fingers over raised details on jackets and book cases.  So do I.)

Two different photographs are spread across the opening and closing endpapers.  On the first, it appears to be daylight.  A praying mantis is positioned underneath a narrow leaf.  It is much darker in the second visual.  The praying mantis is posed on top of a leaf with other leaves above and below it on a stem.

The two-page illustration for the title page is breathtaking.  The close-up of blossom stems and a blossom supply a setting fit for a praying mantis to stop.  Each page turn provides readers with a page-and-one-half, two-page or single-page picture.  Text is embedded in the photographs or within a generated column of solid color.  You will find yourself gasping at the close-up points of view.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page photograph.  Beginning at the center bottom on the left side, crossing the gutter, and extending to the right edge is an evergreen branch.  Behind it is faded greens, golds and a touch of pale peach or pink,  Atop this branch is a praying mantis.  Its head is turned to look directly at readers.  The details are astounding.

The team of author Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder have delivered a marvelous look at nature for readers in Wait---and See.  At the close of the book, opposite the final photograph of tiny praying mantises on buttercups, is a page of notes about the praying mantises in this book and their characteristics and life habits.  This will make a splendid addition to your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Helen Frost and Rick Lieder and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Helen Frost has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  Rick Lieder has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Freedom To Have Fun

There are many individuals who adhere to the unofficial beginning of summer as Memorial Day weekend and the ending of summer after Labor Day weekend.  In truth, summer begins on the summer solstice and ends on the autumnal solstice.  Those dates are usually around the third week in June and the third week in September.  There are others who base the beginning and ending of summer with the ending and beginning of the school year.  

Regardless of when it starts, there are other signs of this seasonal shift.  Morning and evenings are heralded by the sounds of birds and crickets.  The air is thick with humidity and the scent of blossoming flowers.  In my neighborhood, fawns wander with their mothers.  Children race past on scooters and bikes.  Thunderstorms quench thirsty lawns and gardens.

As a child summer meant floating stick and leaf boats down gutters during rainy days, spending hours under a large tree playing Monopoly when seated on an old quilt, playing softball on the vacant lot with the neighborhood kids, running through sprinklers until our skin was wrinkled, and calling out here I come, ready or not as we played hide-and-seek until mothers called us inside.  In The World Belonged to Us (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, May 10, 2022) written by Jacqueline Woodson with illustrations by Leo Espinosa, readers are transported to the freedom summer offers children.  Let's follow them!

In Brooklyn
in the summer
not so long ago

grown-ups always had someplace to be or some kind of work to do, but the minute school ended, us kids were free as air.
Free as sun.  Free as summer.

The heat in the city was intense even before school ended.  Wearing their school clothes, children ran through the water released by a hydrant enhanced with a can as their moms yelled at them.  The person handy with a wrench and the rest of the children intended to enjoy every single minute of summer.

All day long games were played on chalk-drawn boards on the streets.  The children were in constant motion, hopping to jump-rope chants, running, and spinning tops.  Their hearts soared.  When bumps and bruises happened, the older kids would step up and help and tell their own tales.

Cardboard creations rose like skyscrapers and the children admired the work of all their fellow builders.  During the summer in Brooklyn, imaginations and hope grew.  When others rose to renown in the world of sports, music, and literature, the kids believed they could, too.

Balls, bats, and cans were ready gear for more than one kind of game.  Senses were honed during play.  It was hardly surprising that everyone could hear the music of the ice cream truck blocks before it arrived.   Moms tossed money from windows inside tied handkerchiefs.  Ice cream was enjoyed and shared.  As the sky darkened, children still played calling out to one another in an array of languages.  When their moms began to call them home, they shouted out promises to each other.  Promises of another day filled with the freedom to have fun.

Author Jacqueline Woodson has an adept ability to reach into the past and bring it alive in the present. Five times the initial three phrase refrain is placed in the narrative to invite us into the summer with these children.  We experience what they are experiencing.  When dialogue is placed in the story, it rings with truth.  We know.  We've heard the same or similar words.  This is what Jacqueline Woodson does beautifully, she connects us regardless of when or where we were (or are) children.  Here is a passage.

In Brooklyn 
in the summer
not so long ago

we learned to watch and listen
playing tag, ringolevio, and hide-and-seek
inside hallways and behind thin-limbed trees
and garbage cans.

And our block was the whole wide world
and the world belonged to us.

There is so much fun happening on the front and back, right and left, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, you want to jump in and join the children.  Many of the remembered activities highlighted in the text are featured in these two scenes.  These depictions do reflect when we believed

the world belonged to us.

To the left of the spine, on a background the same hue as the title text, is a golden oval.  Children are running inside and outside the oval, playing kick the can.  Underneath this image are words of praise for previous books by both the author and the illustrator.

On a marbled, muted canvas of dark orange on the opening and closing endpapers are drawings in red.  These drawings appear to be made in chalk or crayon.  They are childlike portrayals of activities enjoyed by the kids in Brooklyn.  You cannot look at these without smiling.  On the title page, we are given a more bird's eye view of the block in Brooklyn.  Along the bottom of the verso and dedication pages  are the tops of buildings in Brooklyn beneath a summer sun on the right.  The dedications read:

To young people everywhere.
Keep playing!---J.W.

To my childhood friends.
Tag, you're all it!---L.E.

Rendered by Leo Espinosa

with a mighty pencil and Adobe Photoshop

these single-page and double-page illustrations radiate warmth and happiness.  The children are placed foremost in the images in full color.  In one of the visuals, we are looking down on the block as the kids are actively engaged in a variety of games.  By their facial expressions and body postures, we know they are overjoyed that it's summer.  

Each line drawn by Leo Esinosa vibrates with fun, even when a child might be seated.  We know they are ready to spring into action.  Leo Espinosa has shown us what summer was, is and should be for all children.  Even though these scenes are in Brooklyn, there is a universality to them.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  Dusk is arriving in the upper parts of the sky.  Darkening clouds move across a pale golden horizon.  Streetlights are on.  In the background on either side of the street are homes and buildings.  Children are running and calling to each other in the foreground.  One child, close to us on the right side, hands cupped to her mouth is shouting at readers.  Each of us can imagine what she is saying.

In truth, everyone feels different in the summer.  That subtle change in how time is spent affects each of us, thankfully.  In this book, The World Belonged to Us written by Jacqueline Woodson with artwork by Leo Espinosa, we are not only reminded of this, but encouraged to continue and support it.  It is a time to be cherished.  You will want to place a copy of this outstanding title on your personal bookshelves and more than one on your professional bookshelves. 

To discover more about Jacqueline Woodson and Leo Espinosa and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Jacqueline Woodson has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Leo Espinosa has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view the title page.  At Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Julie Danielson talks about this book as only she can and shares multiple interior images.  This book is included with two other Jacqueline Woodson titles in an Educator's Guide.  The publisher has a sneak peek preview here.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

To The Dogs #3

It is essential to remember our canine companions are emotional and social beings.  They experience stress, confidence, loneliness, fear, courage, sadness, and happiness as do humans.  For them and other animals, their responses to these emotions are how they survive.  They, too, need to be around other dogs and humans.  When walking or running with you, they greet other walkers, runners, and bikers with tail wags, prancing, and open mouths looking much like smiles.  In the case of my Mulan, she refuses to move and sits patiently until the walker, runner, or bike rider has passed.  This is her way of acknowledging them.  Her personality is to contemplate the universe whenever possible.

If we remember we are their pack, the rewards are immeasurable.  Don't Worry, Murray (Balzer + Bray, An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, June 7, 2022) written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein is about a precious pup who tries, with encouragement, to set his worries aside.  It is a story of becoming brave, a little bit at a time.

Good morning, Murray!

When an unseen narrator (his human?) asks Murray why he won't go outside, Murray has three answers.  Each sees him not faring well in the falling rain.  In fact, in one scenario the water is so deep it is up to the middle of his tummy when he stands.  

Murray is told not to be anxious.  He needs to wear his raincoat.  He does and is told he is a 

Good boy.

Just when Murray thinks everything might be okay, a big blast of thunder scares him into hiding under a park bench.

In each of the next three situations, Murray is questioned about playing with the new dog in the park, attending a barbeque, and even going to bed.  Each time Murray replies with possible negative outcomes.  No one likes to have their favorite toy taken from them.  No one likes to be frightened by fireworks.  No one likes to be alone when they fall asleep; there might be monsters.

Murray tries to play with the new dog and attend the barbeque, but initial fun ends with the little guy cowering in fear.  As promised, the narrator stays with Murray as he curls up on his bed to sleep.  The voice continues to speak to Murray, recounting his day.  Three final sentences send Murray into the sweetest of dreams.

Readers and listeners, canine and human, will readily identify with the concerns of Murray as presented by David Ezra Stein.  The structure for each event is the same, supplying readers with a welcoming rhythm.  Murray is asked a question.  His reply is a series of wordless images.  Murray is told not to worry and a suggestion is offered.  Then, he is reminded of being a good boy.  When disaster strikes, there is a single word question.  This cadence leads us gently to the conclusion with the narrator summing up Murray's day and his accomplishments.  Murray, like all of us, is reminded of his value.  Here are three sentences.

Don't worry, Murray!
There won't be any fireworks.

Good boy, Murray!  Good boy.

One of the first things you notice when looking at the open and matching dust jacket and book case are the eyes of Murray.  He may be hearing don't worry, but his eyes are still brimming with concern.  You want to encircle him with comfort like his bed does for him.  And, the adorable dog toy lying next to him lets us know it is his favorite.  He's keeping it close.  The contrasting colors of blue and yellow suggest both worry and warmth.  Murray on the front and back of the jacket along with the title text are varnished.

To the left of the spine, on a white background is a single small image.  It is a relieved Murray lying in his bed.  He is smiling with one eye closed in contentment and the other open to greet whoever happens to be there. 

The opening and closing endpapers are a bright sunshine yellow.  On the title, verso, and dedication pages Murray is shown in his bed.  He is dreaming of running with abandon, curled with his front paws touching his back paws, and in a similar pose to the back of the jacket and case.  These are on white canvases.

These pictures by David Ezra Stein were rendered using

bamboo pen and ink, charcoal, graphite, watercolor, crayon, and photocopy

White space is used with excellence to draw our attention to Murray.  There are full-page pictures, followed by a series of wordless scenes grouped on a single page, and subsequent full-page illustrations blended with smaller images on white canvases.  This artwork heightens the narrative pacing.  The facial expressions and body postures on Murray endear him to readers unconditionally.  (Dog lovers will sigh aloud.)

One of my many favorite illustrations is when Murray has been convinced to go outside in the rain.  He is wearing a yellow raincoat and matching yellow hat.  Tail wagging and tongue hanging out in happiness, he looks at himself in a mirror.  This is a canine with confidence.  He is standing on a striped rug in a hallway with wooden floors with a window to the left and a small table to the right.

The artwork and writing of David Ezra Stein pair with perfection in Don't Worry, Murray.  Murray's worries are shared by many children (and some adults) making this a wonderful title to share widely and often.  The reassurances offered by the narrator are a soothing conclusion.  We all need to know, bravery builds over time.  I highly recommend this title for both your professional and personal collections.

To discover more about David Ezra Stein and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  David Ezra Stein has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  You'll enjoy seeing remarks about this title on his social media accounts.

UPDATE:  This title is featured with artwork at Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast on July 15, 2022.

We have learned on our daily walks about other dogs we might encounter.  We have timed leaving our home to avoid any conflicts (dogs off leash), but yesterday when walking past a newly renovated bed and breakfast, two tiny hairy white dogs came charging at us.  It was not even seven in the morning.  I was worried they would run into the road.  And where were their humans? 

A bit later, a barefoot woman wearing a white bathrobe came after the dogs.  They, barking, completely ignored her.  When we moved to continue our walk, they still came after us.  Thankfully, my companion did not bark back, but sat and then stood next to me.  Understandably, she was reluctant to turn her back on them.  Finally, the woman captured the dogs, apologizing and we walked up a hill toward home.  Another thing Mulan and I have learned is the dog population in our tiny town swells in the summer.  And we know, dogs will be dogs.  Every Dog in the Neighborhood (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, June 21, 2022) written by Philip C. Stead with artwork by Matthew Cordell is a lovely ode to dogs, their people and their commentary, community, and the affection between a child and their grandparent. 

Grandma stirs a spoonful of honey into her tea and frowns.  "Louis," she says, "it's going to rain today.  I can feel it in my knees."

"Are you sure?" I ask.  The weather is just fine in my knees.

Louis wants a dog.  His grandmother says there are already plenty in the neighborhood.  Louis knows from experience that 

Grandma knows everything.

But, she doesn't know how many dogs there are in their neighborhood.  At a stop during their rainy walk, Grandma makes a comment.  Both Louis and his grandmother write letters to City Hall.   This is the beginning of a quest for each. 

The replies to their letters, another two letters, are discouraging.  Louis decides his grandmother, again, knows best.  They are going to take matters into their own hands.  

Louis is going to count all the dogs in the neighborhood.  Louis goes to every house, even the ones he knows do not have a dog.  By chatting with his neighbors, Louis realizes more than the number of dogs.  Louis is now privy to the people in the neighborhood, their dogs, and the bond between them.  Each person shares a little bit more than whether they have a dog or not.  Several times during the day, Louis finds his grandmother and they share a snack and conversation.  (No text in this narrative refers to how Grandma spends her day.)

That evening, Louis informs Grandma about the number of dogs in the neighborhood.  Grandma does not accept that number.  And this is where I pause my recounting of this title.  The concluding eleven pages left this reader teary-eyed and enjoying Louis and Grandma even more.  We should all be so fortunate to have a grandmother like Louis.

Through Louis's voice and dialogue between Louis and his grandmother and Louis and their neighbors, Philip C. Stead takes us on a tour of the neighborhood and into the hearts of each resident.  At each stop, Louis numbers the dogs and notes their name and something of interest.  Readers will delight in the names of the dogs and how those names reflect on their people.  Through the work of Louis during the day, Philip C. Stead is clearly and with intention leading us to a conclusion which will leave a mark on each reader's heart.  Here is a passage.

"Excuse me, Mr. Pierce," I say.  "I am counting every dog in the neighborhood.  Do you have a dog?"
"I had a dog once," says Mr. Pierce.  "His name was Harvey.  He doesn't live here anymore.  But he will always live in my heart."
"Does your heart live here?" I ask.
"Oh, yes," he says.  "It has for many years.

That was good enough for me.  I write down:

1. Harvey 

One look at the right side of the open jacket and you cannot help but smile.  As Grandma and Louis sit on the steps of their home, they smile at the people and their dogs walking.  All those dogs, seven in all, are happy to be on a walk.  Look at their faces!  The color choices in this illustration radiate warmth.  The title text is varnished a deep purple.

To the left of the spine, the entire scene continues.  Other dog people and their dogs are out walking.  We see other pets named in the narrative, cats, and a parrot and a Burmese python which are now free.  Several pets and children are inside the next home, looking at the display outside.  Either Thelonious or Monk are holding the ISBN in their mouth.  Every individual is content.

On the book case, on a canvas of pale mint green, Matthew has fashioned a gallery.  There are twenty unique frames in various shapes.  Inside each one is a portrait of a named canine companion.  The opening and closing endpapers are a rich golden orange yellow.  On the title page is a smaller drawing, an image, of Louis and Grandma on the steps of their home.  We can see it in its entirety.  There are dogs and people out in front of them, enjoying the day.


pen and ink and watercolor,

Matthew Cordell, in a style distinctively his own, with delicate and intricate details, takes us into this community of people with their dogs and other animal friends.  (At one house, even before we read the text we can infer there are three animals there by the dishes outside the door.)(A nighttime walk contains a special visitor.)  As we study each picture, through the looks on people's faces and their body postures, we are aware of their current emotional mood.  Most of the images are single-page pictures, loosely framed in sketchy ink lines with wide white borders.

Matthew Cordell adds sound effects for impact.  When Louis is telling us he is gathering what he needs for his survey, each item is drawn and labeled.  Two pages prior to the conclusion include six wordless visuals.  These hint at Grandma's work.  Readers will notice, at least twice, references to a prior collaboration between Matthew and Philip.  Who do you think named their dogs Wilbur and Orville?  Two wordless illustrations bookend a dramatic two-page picture at the end of the book.  In two words and one phrase they represent, bliss, success, and be the change.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the words:

That's why I love her.

In this picture, Louis and Grandma are taking their walk wearing raincoats and using umbrellas.  Rain puddles on the sidewalk at the unexpected downpour.  Behind them, to the left and to the right, other walkers and their dogs are yelling and running for cover.  (I love Grandma, too.)

Most certainly this is a book about dogs and their people, but Every Dog in the Neighborhood written by Philip C. Stead with artwork by Matthew Cordell is about finding goodness and community connections.  It is about people from all walks of life and age rejoicing in a shared love.  It is about one grandmother knowing the heart of her grandson and how to grow the heart of her neighborhood.  I can't imagine any collection without a copy of this book.  

To learn more about Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Philip C. Stead has an account on Instagram he shares with his wife, Erin E. Stead.  There is also a website titled The Stead Collection.  Matthew Cordell has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At Penguin Random House, you can view some interior images.  I believe you will enjoy this interview with Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell at Kansas Public Radio about this title.  

Friday, July 8, 2022

Beginning To End And Circling Around Agan

When you have gardens on all sides of your home, every day is a weeding day.  Each day there is a quick walk-through, removing unwanted greenery which seems to appear overnight.  At least one day a week, the entire day is devoted to refreshing the soil and making sure the only thing in the gardens is desired.  It is a chance to carefully look at all the plants and assess their health, growth, and beauty.

It is a day of discovery.  The perennial, you hope survived the winter, has new shoots.  To see tips of green come from the dirt is like a miracle!  With each passing week, flowers blossom and fade and new ones become the stars.  One day the squash and tomato plants have baby squash and baby tomatoes on them! (You might squeal in delight.)  A Seed Grows (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, June 21, 2022) written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis is a circle story supplying readers with rhythmic phrases and splendidly designed artwork.  It is for the youngest and oldest of readers.  It is a celebration of life.




When it drops, it lands in dirt.  There it nestles, like a child tucked into bed at night.  This seed is heated by the sun and given moisture from the rain.

Then, a tiny sprout breaks free of the shell.  With its newfound strength, it stretches out from the dirt and drinks in the sun that warmed it.  This plant does not stop growing.  

Finally, at the top is a bud.  Slowly, the bud gets larger until a flower bursts forth.  In the center of the flower, seeds form.

As the seasons pass, the flower loses its luster and the blossom droops.  The seeds scatter on the ground.  These seeds make meals for the birds.  One day, one of those birds drops a seed.  And . . .

The deliberate words penned by Antoinette Portis are presented with impeccable pacing.  The first seventy-two words form a single sentence until the final four words form the second sentence in the book.  Those seventy-two words flow like the notes on a marvelous melody.  With each page turn, we can feel something building and swelling until a height is reached and it gently ebbs.  Here is one of the phrases.

and settles into the


When readers open the matching dust jacket and book case, the brilliant blue sky provides a canvas from flap edge to flap edge.  Along the bottom on both the left and right, back and front, is the wide border of dirt.  A large sunflower is placed on both sides.  The sunflower on the front holds the title and the sunflower seedling, newly risen from the ground.  On the back, the sunflower is shown in two shades of yellow.  The center holds praise for two of Antoinette Portis's books, A New Green Day and Hey, Water!  On the dust jacket the title text is varnished.

On the opening and closing endpapers and first and last pages are close-ups of the seeds inside a sunflower in shades of brown, orange, and yellow.  On the title page, a portion of a sunflower at the top holds the title text.  Beneath this, a bird carries a sunflower seed in its beak.

Antoinette Portis rendered these illustrations

using various printmaking
techniques, including gel printing, linocutting, potato stamping
and printing with a celery stalk.

The text is placed on a white background on the left.  For each phrase a specific word is enlarged and printed in an appropriate color.  The images on the right are simple, but that simplicity draws our focus.  The perspective takes us very close to the elements.  When the flower emerges, readers are treated to a vertical gatefold.  For the last six pages, Antoinette Portis switches to two, double-page pictures and two full-page pictures with the text embedded in the illustrations.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page visual.  On the sky blue background with smudges of white is the bud.  It is placed in the center.  Its size makes us feel like a hummingbird.  Underneath the bud is the stalk with two sets of leaves on either side.  They are made in two hues of green.  The bud consists of layers in more colors of green gradually turning to yellow at the top.  These layers are so delicate, they look like tissue paper.  

For introducing readers or reminding readers of the wonder tucked inside seeds, A Seed Grows written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis is magnificent.  At the close of the book, with her signature images, are pages describing Parts of a sunflower seed, Parts of a sunflower plant, What the seed needs to sprout, and the Life Cycle of a Sunflower Plant.  There is a More to explore section of eight books and a website.  This book needs to have a place on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Antoinette Portis and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Antoinette Portis has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At Penguin Random House, you can view the endpapers.  I believe you will enjoy this video.  Antoinette Portis takes us on a tour of her studio, gives us insight into two of her previous books, and we get to see some process art for this title.  

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

To The Dogs #2

If you want to have a complete sensory experience, consider a canine companion.  Their heightened abilities will alert you to something long before it registers in your ears, eyes, or nose or before you venture to taste or touch it.  Dogs walk through their surroundings ready to react.  You learn to observe their every look, twitch of their nose, or swivel of their head.  When they stop, you need to stop.  

Sometimes, they are alerting you to something.  Sometimes, they are telling you about themselves.  In Hot Dog (Alfred A. Knopf, May 24, 2022) written and illustrated by Doug Salati, his first as both author and illustrator, a pup is collapsing under the weight of summer in the city.  Fortunately, his human finally understands.

City summer




A dog and his human make their way down city streets, she with a list of errands in her hand.  After their first stop, the dog is increasingly bombarded with a series of loud sounds compounded by the heat.  After visiting the third building, the pup is nearly frantic with sensory overload.

Unable to take another step, the dog stops right in the middle of the road.  The woman, awareness dawning, kneels down in the crosswalk, nose to nose with her furry friend.  Picking up the dog, she yells for a taxi.

From taxi to train and then to ferry, they get farther and farther away from the city and the heat.  They are closer and closer to a cool light wind and the salty scent of the sea.  They arrive at an island with tall grasses, long stretches of sandy beach and white foamy waves.  The dog runs in pure ecstasy.  

There are hours of digging, barking, shaking, sniffing, finding, rolling, and romping.  As the shadows lengthen, the pair enjoy the last rays of the sun and the soothing sound of the water washing on the shore.  Under the light of a moon, they make their way home retracing their previous path.  Cuddled together at their city apartment in their bed by a window, they fall asleep.  Can you guess what fills the dog's dreams?

Spare, vividly descriptive text written by Doug Salati draws us deeply and immediately into this narrative.  Two word alliterative phrases build toward a critical moment for the dog and his human.  As the story shifts, the phrases are longer; longing is replaced with a wondrous reward.  Concluding words lull readers, the pup, and his person into blissful dreams.  Here is another phrase.

sun sinks down, swallowed by the sea

On the front, right side of the open dust jacket, the dog is in a state of bliss, away from the heat of the city, cooled by the sea.  The closed eyes indicate a serene mental moment.  In its mouth is a found treasure from hours of digging.  To the left of the spine, on the back, on a canvas of sandy yellow is a picture of the dog looking at readers through their window in the city apartment.  A double window fan supplies relief for them in their home.  Beneath this image words by two-time Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall read:

"An utter joy from beginning to end!"

Across a hot orange background on the open book case is an extended scene from the book.  It is the point where the woman goes to her dog stopped in the crosswalk in the middle of the road.  They look into each other's eyes, nose to nose.  Lines of the crosswalk spread from left to right.  On the left, a pigeon flies away from a piece of half-eaten pizza and a paper plate on the crosswalk.  Traffic sounds in a variety of fonts spread across the book case.  This is a tender moment with the woman holding the dog's mouth and nose in her hand and a raised paw in her other hand.

In shades of reddish pink, the dog is drawn in numerous poses on the open and closing endpapers,  In only one of the poses is it completely colored.  The filled-in pose is different on each set of endpapers.  On the title page, we see the dog in the apartment window.  Its back is to us.  This is a reversal of the viewpoint from the back of the dust jacket.  On the verso the dog and his human are leaving their apartment building

These full-color illustrations 

created using a combination of pencil and gouache on paper and Photoshop

are placed like panels on pages (horizontally and vertically) with sketchy outlines for framing with white space making columns for text or fashioning space between two images on a single page. The pictures are highly animated and intricately detailed.  At times people will be only sketches on the edges of illustrations.  Prior to the duo leaving for the beach, there are a lot of warm colors in the city settings to indicate the heat and the frustration the pup is feeling.  For dramatic effect, there are several single-page pictures, edge to edge.

Once the pals get to the sea, the borders are loose and indicative of breezes.  There are six pages of wordless pictures of all sizes which speak volumes.  You want to cheer for this dog and his woman.  She loves that the dog is loving the beach.  As they return to the city, the framing is a blend of the hot day visuals and the breezy sea images.  Careful readers will notice one new item the woman is carrying home.  It is a promise.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture, edge to edge.  It is after the woman stops in the crosswalk in the middle of the street to kneel down to her dog.  In this image on a hot orange-red background with yellow radiating lines, the woman stands, her one arm raised as she cries


Her large straw hat and large blue-rimmed glasses frame her face and hair, hair the same color as the dog's fur.  In her other arm she carries her pup, yellow leash dangling down.  The dog is wide-eyed and smiling.  

At times all individuals are overwhelmed by their surroundings and current situation.  This is when it is time to take a break.  In Hot Dog written and illustrated by Doug Salati, two friends find solace by the sea.  Renewed they return to the city, ready to sleep and ready for their next adventure.  I highly recommend this book for both your personal and professional collections.  The words and illustrations provide a partnership as perfect as that between the dog and the woman.

To learn more about Dog Salati and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Doug Salati has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.  Doug Salati and this title are showcased by Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  There is process art and final art as well.

Dogs like humans have distinctive personalities and characteristics.  After time spent together, you begin to understand them and they begin to understand you.  You, as a human, come to accept there are things you will never change about your dog.  You, also, realize they have wisdom beyond your capabilities.  The thing is, this wisdom is not always applicable to a human's world.  With over-the-top hilarity in words and pictures, author Dev Petty and illustrator Mike Boldt bring us Don't Eat Bees (Life Lessons from Chip the Dog)(Doubleday Books For Young Readers, May 31, 2022).  This dog is all dog.

I am a smart dog.
I am only 7, but that is practically
50 in person years, so I already know
several important dog things.

To begin, Chip relays his opinions on cats and litter boxes, burying bones, and the unbelievable array of dog sizes and shapes.  He then shifts to his most favorite thing in the world, eating.  He loves chewing socks, but advises to avoid bees.

Paper, especially homework by his younger human, is one of his delectable delights.  It keeps them with him longer when they have to redo their work.  He also loves the Thanksgiving turkey. (Or is it the chase?) At all costs, he reminds us to avoid bees.

Grandpa's teeth are tasty.  So is the cat's food.  In fact, there is not much that Chip won't consume, except for bees and a couple of other yucky things, like fire.

By now you might be wondering why Chip is so persistent about not eating bees.  It is a secret secret which this writer will not reveal.  And of course, the cat is seeking revenge for the loss of its food as the comedic conclusion unfolds.  Oh, Chip!

Told from Chip's point of view, this story penned by Dev Petty is laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to the end.  Chip's initial claim of being smart followed by his commentary and logic is a constant cause of giggles and grins.  Dev Petty's use of do and don't and a pro tip create a rhythm as the narrative is read.  It invites us to keep turning the pages, so we can keep laughing.  Here is a passage.

Do: Eat the cat food.
Just because you can.
Who's a dumb dog
now, Mittens?

Not me.
I don't eat bees.

How can you look at the front, right side, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case without laughing?  Wide-eyed Chip who loves to eat everything is seriously thinking about gulping down the bee buzzing around him.  The dotted yellow line indicating the path of the bee appears whenever Chip mentions not to eat bees.

On the back, to the left of the spine, on a turquoise canvas is a retro menu of 


Since 7 Years Ago

Under the headings of appetizers, entrees, and dessert are listed those items Chip mentions loving to eat in the story.  Paw prints appear on the menu and as part of the menu heading.  In true Chip fashion, the lower, left-hand corner of the menu has been bitten off.  The ISBN is part of the menu.

Above a flower-covered field along the bottom of the opening and closing endpapers is a wide blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds.  The clouds are not the same on each set of endpapers.  In a different path on each set of endpapers is the yellow dotted line of a bee's path.  This path continues on the verso and title pages.  Chip, on the left, eyes the bee with extreme caution as it flies toward a flower on the right.

These lively, humorous pictures by Mike Boldt are placed on a variety of backgrounds and make excellent use of white space.  Most are single-page pictures, but for dramatic effect (and maximum hilarity), there are five double-page pictures.  The facial expressions, the eyes, and body postures like Chip's pointing paw add to the comedy.  

The placement of Chip on the page and his size in the scene further contribute to the fun and funniness of this book.  When Chip is speaking about Mitten and the litter box, all we see of Chip is the upper part of his head along the bottom of the page, looking up as the cat walks away from the smelly box.  When Chip is running away with the Thanksgiving turkey, we are privy to the entire chaotic event of the table tipping, chairs falling, dishes crashing to the floor, and adult arms reaching toward Chip as he scampers away on the right of this two-page image.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture on a bright yellow canvas.  Chip is front and center with a tilted head.  He is wearing a goofy grin exaggerated by the presence of Grandpa's false teeth.  We see Chip's head and a small portion of his upper body.  Around him, laughing are the daughter, Grandpa, and the mother.  The daughter is hugging her stomach.  Grandpa is crying, he is laughing so hard.  And the mother is holding her phone, either because she has taken a picture or will take one soon.  Chip's eyes are crossed.

Whether you are a dog person or not, everyone loves to laugh.  This book, Don't Eat Bees (Life Lessons from Chip the Dog) written by Dev Petty with illustrations by Mike Boldt is so funny, you know parts or all of it are probably true. (I don't dare take my dog anywhere a bee might be.  As we take our morning walks, if a bug comes near her she snaps it right out of the air and swallows it.)  You'll want to add this title to your personal and professional collections to hear the sound of laughter ringing out as you read it.

To learn more about Dev Petty and Mike Boldt and their other work, including their previous collaborations, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Dev Petty has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Mike Boldt has accounts on Instagram, Twitter, Vimeo, and YouTube.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.  John Schu interviews both Dev Petty and Mike Boldt about this book on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Dev Petty stops by author Tara Lazar's blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), to chat about writing this book.

UPDATE:  Dev Petty is a guest author at the Nerdy Book Club, July 12, 2022, in a post titled The Space Between: Why Humor Matters in the Dark.  This title is part of the discussion.

Monday, July 4, 2022

A Stray . . . Changed

In those random moments of individuals' lives when an uncharacteristic decision is made, the results of that choice can be more splendid than ever imagined.  A split second can transform the remaining days of your life.  The wondrous thing about this is at the time you have no idea what you have done.  The consequences, over time, reveal themselves in one beautiful opportunity after another.

Some beings have light inside them, carefully hidden.  All it takes is that split-second choice to release that glow until it radiates farther and farther out into the universe.  Pigeon & Cat (Christy Ottaviano Books, Little, Brown And Company, June 21, 2022) written and illustrated by Edward Hemingway is indeed a tale of friendship by an unlikely pair, but it is much more.  It is a story about the power of love, a love made visible.  This kind of love can change a vacant lot and a community and all who dwell there.

In an abandoned city lot there sits a cardboard box.
Inside the box lives Cat. 

The box has withstood the test of time, keeping Cat warm and dry.  Cat has a few possessions inside the box, the bare necessities.  At times, he leaves the city lot to search for food in nearby dumpsters.  When Cat sleeps, it is always with one eye open.  This allows him to keep others away should they dare to step into his space.

Near a window ledge on a rather breezy evening, a nest falls to the ground.  Inside is a perfect unbroken egg.  Cat decides not to eat it and takes it to his box.  As Cat watches, a baby pigeon breaks through the shell.  The two greet each other.

Cat tends to the baby bird as a mother would.  Pigeon's first melodious notes lull Cat to sleep.  Pigeon grows and is soon flying.  When she goes to the top of a building surrounding the lot, she can't wait to visit the world spread in front of her.  Cat warns her, but Pigeon flies away.  When she returns, she brings Cat a gift of red chalk.  Cat is astonished at her generosity.

Day after day, Pigeon brings forgotten gems to Cat.  Cat, in turn, releases the hidden light inside himself and fashions colorful wall art with those gifts.  One day, storm clouds roll in and Pigeon does not come back to the city lot.  After the storm passes, Cat calls and calls for Pigeon.  She has disappeared.  Cat does what he has never previously done.  He leaves the lot and ventures into the city.

Cat looks everywhere for Pigeon, leaving her drawn messages with the chalk she gave him.  Week after week Cat seeks Pigeon, sometimes he even gives away gifts to other strays.  One day, Cat spies birds carrying something unusual.  He follows them.  He can't believe where he is.  He can't believe what he sees.  Believe it, Cat.  Believe.

Meticulously chosen words by Edward Hemingway create short intentional sentences supplying readers with a true sense of the life Cat lives before and after the arrival of Pigeon.  These words, verbs and adjectives, elevate the meaning of the narrative beautifully.  When Pigeon speaks to Cat, Edward Hemingway places tiny pictures (emojis) in her speech balloons to convey her meaning.  This invites participation by readers, bringing them further into the tale.  Here is a single sentence and another passage.  The sentence describes Pigeon's egg elegantly.

White as fish bone and warm as summer rain, it's too beautiful to eat.

The lot isn't much, but it's become nothing without Pigeon.  Gathering all his 
courage and some possessions, Cat climbs over the fence and into the city.


oil paint on board with hand-cut paper and Photoshop,

we get our first look at the artwork of Edward Hemingway for this book on the open dust jacket.  Not only are we introduced to Pigeon and Cat, but we see how Pigeon communicates.  Their admiration and affection for each other is evident in their facial expressions.  To the left of the spine which features tiny heads of Pigeon and Cat, we are shown portions of an interior collage.  Here we see items retrieved by Pigeon for Cat.  The ISBN is cleverly included in one of the geometric spaces.  These spaces surround a rectangle with these words inside:

Pigeon and Cat form a lasting
bond in this poignant picture book
about compassion and friendship.

On the open book case from left to right is a vast cityscape.  In the pastel sky replete with pastel dots flies Pigeon on the right.  She is clearly excited.  A circle highlighting a drawn hopscotch game points to a rooftop.  The game is drawn in red chalk.  This image from the book is wordless.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a pattern in a blue canvas with cream lines and an array of pastel and sometimes darker dots.  (This would be splendid wallpaper.)  With a page turn, we come to the verso and title pages.  Here on the first, within a circle, Cat is drawing Pigeon on a brick wall.  On the title page, Cat is seated outside his newly decorated box.  Pigeon speaks of her happiness and love for Cat.

The visuals by Edward Hemingway vary in size from dramatic double-page pictures to single-page pictures, some with insets, and striking black and white silhouettes cut from paper.  Sometimes a page will be broken into borderless panels.  The backgrounds vary according to the narrative.  Perspectives vary too, taking us close to an event or giving us a grand view.  One of the businesses is named Eddies. On one of the billboards we read:


As pages are turned, readers will be looking at the included details and measuring the contrasts like the one between Pigeon and the BOXES sign and the city beyond the city lot.  They will find themselves interpreting Pigeon's speech and a few foreign language words.  They will see love and hope growing.

One of my many favorite illustrations is toward the end of the book.  It is a single page picture.  On a pale dusty pink canvas is a large oval image.  Framing it is a collection of dots in an assortment of hues and sizes.  Inside on a cream background in black are Pigeon and Cat.  Cat is holding Pigeon in his hands.  Pigeon is speaking in pictures.  Cat replies in pictures.  This is a very moving moment.

These two creatures defy what nature tells us about felines and birds.  In Pigeon & Cat written and illustrated by Edward Hemingway, the words love finds a way are realized.  This title will be a much-requested book to be reread repeatedly and shared widely.  No collection, personal or professional, will be complete without a copy.

To discover more about Edward Hemingway and his other work, please access his website by following the link attached to his name.  Edward Hemingway has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can download a six-page curriculum guide and a four-page activity kit.  This title is showcased by Betsy Bird at School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production and by John Schu at Watch. Connect. Read.  Both interviews are stellar, disclosing much about this title and Edward Hemingway's art.

Edward Hemingway Presents PIGEON & CAT from LB School on Vimeo.