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.

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