Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Defining Welcome

In my adult life, I have bought and sold ten houses.  Last June I moved into the eleventh house.  In most of those homes, there was a small piece of paper on display I read everyday with these words:

The beauty of the house is order,
the blessing of the house is contentment,
the glory of the house is hospitality.

I am currently struggling with the first line as organizing my considerable book collection is time consuming, but this eleventh house is slowly becoming a home filled with a happy, tail-wagging canine and her human who both enjoy visitors.

Each individual holds their own meaning of home in their mind and heart.  In The Mouse Who Carried A House On His Back (Candlewick Press, August 30, 2022) written by Jonathan Stutzman with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault readers come to understand some of those definitions.  They also realize how houses become homes within the context of welcoming.

Vincent was a mouse with boots on his feet,
a hat on his head, and a house on his back.

He had traveled many miles and lived many places,
but today Vincent would live here,
because he knew it was where he needed to be.

Vincent stopped on a grassy hill.  The sky stretched as far as his eyes could see. He removed his boots, hat, and his house.

A weary and grumpy frog soon hopped toward Vincent.  Vincent offered his house as a place to rest.  The frog laughed.  Obviously, the house was too small, but peering inside it was definitely bigger than it looked.

As the day progressed Vincent was visited by a hungry cat, a rain-and-wind tossed family of hedgehogs, and a bunch of other animal residents of the forest.  Each time, the mouse would offer his house as a sanctuary.  Each time the animals believed the house was too small to accommodate them, but they were wrong.  The house grew and grew and grew.

As all the gathered beings were about to enjoy a feast in the soothing sanctuary of Vincent's house, there was a knock at the door.  It was now dark outside.  Standing at the door was a bear, a bear who was hungry and lost.  Vincent was his usual cheerful, inviting self.  The other animals were not.  Their voices rose in protest.  Vincent knew where he was needed and no one was going to change what he believed to be true.

With every reading the musicality of this story, in a blend of dialogue and narrative, by Jonathan Stutzman grows more evident. We are initially introduced to the main protagonist and his house.  Each time an animal appears we are reminded of this mouse's characteristics and the characteristics of his house.  Carefully chosen words clearly indicate the condition of each animal upon their arrival.  This is paired with a perfect suggestion by Vincent as to what his house offers.  There is a repetition of key phrases.  Jonathan Stutzman brings us full circle with his closing sentences.  Here is a passage.

Clouds billowed in the west, and in blew a family of hedgehogs---one by
one by one by one by one by one by one---each wet and tousled by a
mighty storm.

"Terrible weather in the valley," squeaked the youngest.

"Come in, come in!" said Vincent with a smile.  "I have warm blankets
and beds and a crackling fire."  . . .

The artwork on the open book case is a single vibrant image.  Vincent, moving to the right, has passed through a mass of stunning blooms covering the left, back, and continuing to the right of the spine on the front.  The house he is carrying on his back is the first of many cut-outs throughout the book.  What we see is a hint of the gorgeous opening and closing endpapers.  The array of blooms on these endpapers is stunning.

On the back of book case is text that would normally appear on the front and back flaps of a dust jacket.  At the top is a short description of Vincent and his house.  Toward the bottom we read about Jonathan Stutzman and Isabelle Arsenault. 

The floral display continues on the two-page illustration for the title page.  Here Vincent, on the right, has placed his house down for a moment.  Almost all the double-page pictures contain a cut-out of Vincent's house with sizes that shift.

These visuals by Isabelle Arsenault

were created with gouache, ink, and cut paper.

Her characters are highly animated with facial expressions indicating their particular moods.  Readers will be fascinated by their clothing.  Each time we look inside Vincent's home, there are added elements to make the interior more pleasing.  You find yourself looking in anticipation each time a page is turned.  Once inside the animals are relaxed and happier.  Readers will gasp at the four-page gatefold.  Be sure to look in the windows.

One of my many favorite images is when the cat and frog are already inside Vincent's house.  On the left, through the cut-out house, one of the hedgehogs is gazing inside.  There are now four hanging lamps with unique shades.  You can see the cat and frog's shoes, removed, as well as Vincent's boots.  The table is longer with more chairs and place settings.  The frog and cat are seated there enjoying a cup of tea.  There is now a brick fireplace with plates along the mantle.  A roaring fire there spreads warmth.  Two beds are in front of the fireplace.  Other beds can be seen on the left.  Spare blankets are stacked on a stool.  There are several rugs on the floor.

The first time I read The Mouse Who Carried A House On His Back written by Jonathan Stutzman with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault, I felt as though I had been presented with something rich and rare.  We are enchanted from beginning to end by Vincent and his uplifting spirit and kindness.  In his eyes, all are equal.  Hopefully as the animals leave his home, his generous spirit will go with them and us.  You can't help but wonder how Vincent knows where he needs to be.  This book is sure to generate discussions.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Jonathan Stutzman and Isabelle Arsenault and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Jonathan Stutzman has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Isabelle Arsenault has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  At the publisher's website, you can view an interior illustration.  At Penguin Random House, you can see additional interior pictures.

Friday, August 26, 2022

What R We Going To Do?

Over the years most of us will enjoy sharing our lives with a pet.  Their companionship is invaluable, even though most of them cannot speak our language.  In fact some of the most peculiar pets are not even alive.  In 1975, Gary Dahl subsequently became a millionaire with his introduction and invention of the Pet Rock.  Cleverly packaged with instructions, it was an instant phenomenon.  In the early 1980s another kind of pet, this one a living plant, skyrocketed to fame.  Chia Pets are still being produced today thanks to Joe Pedott and his company.

Regardless of the kind of pet in your life, you probably would be as shocked as the protagonist in this story when she wakes one morning.  My Pet Feet (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, August 23, 2022) written by Josh Funk with illustrations by debut picture artist Billy Yong is an alphabetical quest.  Through a laugh-out-loud narrative with equally funny images, we journey to right a wrong realizing we need the total twenty-six member team.

Today I woke up and was about 
to feed my pet when---

"What happened to my pet feet?
I mean my pet feet.  Why can't I say 'FEET'?"

It seems that Doodles, this child's pet ferret has become her pet feet.  Pet feet?!  Scanning her room for possible answers, she notices the letter r is missing from her alphabet mural.  Running to her friend Lucas for help, this girl is in for another series of surprises.

The world minus the letter r has turned into mayhem.  Lucas is no longer her friend but a fiend.  She and Doodles run from a flock of cows (crows) seeking shelter at the doo (door) of the town hall, but they obviously cannot get inside.  In desperation, the girl and Doodles climb to the top of a cane (crane) beside the structure.

From this vantage point, she ponders this problem.  What has happened to all the eighteenth symbols of the alphabet?  In her frustration, she declares she does not want pet feet forever.  At Doodles' hurt expression, she hurries to apologize, but Doodles runs away.  She tries to catch him.  She tries to find him.  Doodles is nowhere to be found.  

Determined not to give up, she finally discovers him at a sandy beach.  Across and on the water, they spy a pirate ship.  Oh, yes my friends, a pirate ship.  Boarding the vessel after a swim, guess what they discover? Quickly, one letter r and a second letter r are given to Doodles.  Back home, everything is normal, or is it? Bedtime supplies the duo with another startling stumper.  

Stellar wordsmith Josh Funk presents readers with an instant dilemma.  It's not every day you wake up to find your pet ferret has been reduced to feet.  With a combination of first person narrative and dialogue, we traverse this mystery with the girl and Doodles.  The tension is heightened when it is apparent no one else notices this travesty except the girl and her furry friend.  Alliteration contributes to the fast-paced cadence.  Here is a passage.

"Come back!" I shouted.

I chased Doodles past a fog and toad,

by the old babbling book, down a tail,

and into a gassy field.

Digitally rendered, the illustrations by Billy Yong are as highly animated throughout the book as we see on the dust jacket.  (I am working with an F & G.)  The bright, light blue canvas spans the entire jacket.  By the wide-eyed expressions on the girl and her ferret we know, even before opening the book, disaster has struck.  To the left of the spine, within a circle we see the girl hugging her beloved pet, her whole pet.  There is a vivid green border around this image.  The first sign of this illustrator's cleverness and attention to detail are four bees buzzing in the lower, right-hand corner just to the left of the spine.  One of the bee's wings covers the letter r in Schuster.

The opening endpapers in a midnight blue feature drawings in a light blue.  They are elements created by the missing letter r.  On the closing endpapers, in a dark rust, the drawings in light brown showcase items after the letter r has been restored.

Billy Yong makes use of every single space to tell his pictorial story.  The double-page picture for the title page is a scene of the child's home with large palm trees to the left.  In one of the windows, she is waking up, stretching her arms, and yawning.  The top of the home's two windows are decorated with the likeness of the top of a ferret's head.  On the first two-page visual we get another hit of the conclusion to the story as we look outside from inside the girl's bedroom.

The images' sizes shift from double-page pictures to single-page illustrations and then to a series of smaller visuals to indicate a thought process.  Readers will enjoy the two-page vertical image when the climb is made to the top of the crane.  White space is used to excellent effect.  Careful readers will notice humorous details.  (I nearly fell out of my chair when I realized what was dragging a bagel across the street.)

One of my many favorite illustrations is the second two-page picture.  This is when the girl first steps outside her home.  On the street winding past her home and through the neighborhood, kids are racing by on go-cats.  These vehicles are pure fun.  The one on the left is close to readers.  The child in the driver's seat is having their best day ever.  Across the street on the right is a park.  Here a policewoman is barely holding onto a wild hose.  Water, in jet mode, shoots out the end as the hose twists and turns.

Author Josh Funk and artist Billy Yong have taken "what if" to hilarious new heights in My Pet Feet.  Certain to generate laughter in readers and listeners as well as promote discussions about the importance of letters, words, and language, this title is a welcome addition to the picture book realm.  You will want to have a copy for your professional collections as well as a spot on your personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Josh Funk and Billy Yong and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Josh Funk has accounts on Facebook, InstagramTwitter, and YouTubeBilly Yong has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and TwitterJosh Funk was a guest blogger at Tara Lazar's Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) earlier this year.  Billy Yong was interviewed several years ago at Character Design References.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images including the entire dust jacket.

Be sure to visit other stops on the virtual tour for this title.  You never know what you will learn.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

What's The Buzz About?

Two Sundays ago, my furry friend and I were taking our daily sunrise walk.  About a block from the house, we passed several large basswood trees on our right.  The buzzing sound from those trees was so loud, I paused looking for an immense hive.  There was nothing.  Near the end of our walk, coming down our home street from the other direction, we walked by another large basswood tree.  It sounded like there were thousands of bees there, but there was no nest.  At home, we slowly strolled past the large basswood tree in our yard.  The buzzing was loud, but I could not find any kind of nest or hive.  A single word popped into my mind---migration.

To the best of my knowledge though, honeybees don't migrate like monarch butterflies or birds.  The next day chatting with a friend helped me to recall something about honeybees needing to relocate.  Honeybee Rescue: A Backyard Drama (Charlesbridge, May 10, 2022) written by Loree Griffin Burns with photography by Ellen Harasimowicz offers an intriguing explanation to the sounds heard on that Sunday morning.  It is the best kind of adventure into the natural world.

This is Mr. Connery, and that is his
ramshackle barn.  The window with no glass opens into a garage with a badly leaking roof.  A few days ago, on the way to his vegetable garden, Mr. Connery noticed that the rickety old structure
was buzzing.

When he peeked through the window with no glass, he saw a honeybee colony.  Mr. Connery is a beekeeper with hive boxes for his bees.  Seeing the colony in the old barn led him to believe one of his hive boxes had become too small for the honeybee colony.  

Apparently the colony grew so fast, it swarmed.  The clever bees divide a colony in two with the original queen taking a group with her while a new queen grows at the original hive.  The bees swarm until a suitable new residence is located.  In their new home, the honeybees were making combs.  This place would not be suitable in the wetter and colder seasons.  

Mr. Connery reached out to Mr. Nelson.  Mr. Nelson is also a beekeeper.  His specialty is relocating honeybee colonies from precarious places for them and humans.  His goal is to preserve the precious honeybees.  

We next learn about the structure of a hive, a series of combs.  This structure makes it less tricky to move a hive.  Together Mr. Connery and Mr. Nelson devise a strategy to relocate the colony.  It involves a unique piece of equipment designed by Mr. Nelson. (You won't believe what it is.  Two pages are dedicated to its composition.) The honeybee-free combs are given to Mr. Connery for specific cutting.  Hours are dedicated to this strategy.  Eventually, thousands of bees are placed in a new and empty box with the combs from their garage hive placed on top.  Week by week, that hive box is moved to the area where the colony originated.  Success!

Author Loree Griffin Burns welcomes readers into this experience with conversational and informative sentences.  She sets the scene with her vivid descriptions.  As she explains how Mr. Connery and Mr. Nelson solve the problem of the honeybees in the old barn, she offers fascinating facts about honeybees, beekeeping, swarming, the design of hives, and relocating honeybees.  As the act of relocating the honeybees unfolds, we are completely captivated through her techniques of listing the strategy, asking questions and supplying answers.  It is as if we are side-by-side with the two men as they work for hours.  Here is the final sentence under Hive Structure.  

Wherever they make their home, honeybees prefer their sheets of comb to hang side by side, approximately one bee-body length apart.

In looking at the right side, front, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, you cannot help but marvel at this view of a hive.  This honeybee's-eye view is fabulous!  Can you imagine the buzzing?  Can you smell the honey?  The first two words of the title text are slightly raised.  On the back, to the left of the spine, are photographs of Mr. Connery and Mr. Nelson, labeled with their prominent occupations in this narrative.  These images are placed on a rusty-colored background.

On the opening and closing endpapers, a color from the hive on the front of the jacket and case is used.  It is a muted orange hue.  On the initial title page, honeybees gather around the title text on a golden canvas.  For the formal title page, a two-page photograph shows Mr. Connery wearing his beekeeping suit lifting a comb from one of his hive boxes. A single bee flies away from the last letter in the title text on the right.  

These exquisite photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz take us directly into this rescue.  The sizes of the illustrations vary from one and one half pages, full-page pictures, white-framed smaller photographs and dramatic two-page visuals. The perspectives shift to enhance the narrative, bringing us intimately into the events shared by Mr. Connery and Mr. Nelson.  

Through the pictures of Ellen Harasimowicz, we stand inside the ramshackle barn looking up at the newly formed colony after the swarm.  We are near a swarm, watching scout bees come and go and the old queen surrounded by the honeybees who followed her.  We watch in amazement as Mr. Nelson works with his particular piece of equipment.  We hardly dare to breathe as Mr. Nelson releases the thousands of bees into their new hive box.

One of my many favorite photographs spans a page and a portion of the previous page.  It is a close up of combs inside a hive.  Here we can see spacing between the combs and the golden colors of each of them.  These combs are covered with bees busily at work.  In looking at this photograph, we have to wonder at the accomplishments of such tiny creatures that give extraordinary meaning to the term teamwork.

The intentional, dedicated and meticulous work of author Loree Griffin Burns and photographer Ellen Harasimowicz is evident with every page turn in the title Honeybee Rescue: A Backyard Drama.  Many of the photographs within the narrative are labeled.  At the close of the book is An interview with Mr. Jon Nelson, bee rescuer.  It is done in a Q & A format.  This is followed by a glossary and an Author's Note on the next two pages.  Sources, Further Reading and Acknowledgments provide readers with more information prior to the dedication and publication information page.  I know you will want to include this stellar title in both your personal and professional collections.  We need honeybees and they need us.

To learn more about Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Loree Griffin Burns has accounts on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.  Ellen Harasimowicz has an account on Instagram.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior illustrations.  At the publisher's website, you can download a seven-page activity kit.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

On Being The Oldest Sibling

Being the oldest child in a family has perks.  In the beginning, as the only child you are everything to your parents.  Every single first is documented.  With the arrival of a younger sibling, everything shifts away from you.  This is a bit of a shock.  The shock grows larger when another realization dawns.

You are assigned more responsibilities.  It's safe to say, some are okay.  Others stink, literally and figuratively.  In The Baby-Changing Station (Megan Tingley BooksLittle, Brown And Company, August 2, 2022) written by Rhett Miller with illustrations by Dan Santat, older brother James initially believes a wish has been granted.  He learns, as most of us do, to be careful about making wishes.

People have names
And my name is James.
I'm a regular ten-year-old kid.
I always thought
I was nice but I'm not.
I feel bad 'bout this thing that I did.

James is lamenting the fact he is no longer in the spotlight.  Joe, his new baby brother, has taken this from him.  Everything Joe does is adorable, even the gross stuff.  If James commits even the tiniest infraction, in his parent's eyes he is not nice.  James begins to plot how to get rid of Joe. Taking him back to a store or sending him in return mail are out of the equation.

When Thursday rolls around, the family goes to The Magical Pan, the best pizzeria in town.  Mom, Dad, and James are stuffed with this delicious treat, when Joe starts to grimace.  Then, the air fills with a tell-tale odor.  

Dad looks at Mom.  Mom looks at Dad.  They both look at James.  James reluctantly takes Joe to the men's room Baby-Changing Station.  Surprisingly efficient, probably motivated by the smell, James has Joe clean and happy in a jiffy.  It is then that James notices a screen over the table.

The screen offers to make Joe disappear with a push of a button.  In his place, there are three options (cool stuff to own).  A huge plus is all memories of Joe will be erased from the family's minds.  As each choice appears, James has visions of future fun.  A countdown from ten to zero begins on this one time offer.  Will he or won't he push that button?  A single word shouted at the end gives us a warm-hearted answer.

By the time you get to the second six line stanza in this narrative, the cadence captures you to the point you might be ready to dance.  James's first person rhyming words by Rhett Miller speak to the truth a first child feels when a younger brother or sister arrives.  Readers will readily find themselves laughing at the dilemma Joe presents to James.  The screen above the baby-changing station seemingly granting James's fervent wish is sheer genius as are James's thoughts when each option is presented.  The rhyming beat, the first person viewpoint, the humor, and the three choices all build toward a conclusion certain to elicit a sigh of satisfaction from readers.  Here is another passage.

Before I could question
This crazy contention
A picture appeared on the screen.
Some weird-looking glasses
With high-tech attachments,
Camouflage, dark brown and green. 


(Page turn completes stanza)

As soon as you see the open dust jacket, with Dan Santat's signature artwork, you know you are in for an interpretive pictorial treat.  In both images, right front and left back, the screen above the changing table holds text.  On the front James and stinky Joe have just entered the men's room.  (Notice the green fumes.)  On the back, Joe sits on the changing table, clean and much less smelly.  He is wide-eyed with his head and eyes raised.  Above him, the sign makes the first verbal announcement.  One look at this and readers will laugh out loud.

On the book case, we zoom in to the changing table, pre-change.  On the right side, Joe down to his diaper seems to be oblivious to the fumes.  On the left, James has laid out all the necessary supplies.  He has wipes, a towel, a clean diaper, pins, and BABY BUTTER.

On the opening and closing endpapers are eight different kinds of diaper folds.  Each one is labeled next to diagrams indicating numbered steps.  Who knew?

These illustrations 

were done in color pencil, watercolor, and Adobe Photoshop.

Each image, single-page or double-page, enhances the text with extra doses of comedy.  The facial expressions are off-the-charts funny.  Usually, we are brought close to the characters and their actions like when Joe is grimacing and loading his diaper as Mom, Dad, and James watch with apprehension.  When James is imagining three different futures with one of the possible selections, readers will wish they could jump into the scene.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a two-page visual.  It is nighttime.  A large dark area with scalloped edging on the corners fills the pages.  There is a sprinkling of stars.  Four boys with flashlights are shining them in the park.  Three are in the background and one is closer to the front on the left.  On most of the right side and with some crossing of the gutter is James and Baby Joe.  Baby Joe is wearing a onesie and carrying a flag.  Both boys are running with mouths wide open and arms spread at their sides.  They are the only two wearing night-vision goggles.  They have captured the flag and a ton of fun.

In this book, The Baby-Changing Station written by Rhett Miller with illustrations by Dan Santat, readers will connect with the family dynamics depicted in exuberant rhyming words and equally rambunctious artwork.  They will knowingly laugh and rejoice at the uplifting ending.  This will be a much requested story time title.  I highly recommend it for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Rhett Miller and Dan Santat and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Rhett Miller has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Dan Santat has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Rhett Miller and Dan Santat were interviewed about this book at School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production by Betsy Bird.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Beauty And Bounty From Our Beloved

One year it was eighty quarts in one day from that single garden patch.  Even now, almost fifty years later, it still seems impossible that many berries were picked.  Those strawberries were carefully washed more than once and trimmed.  They were used in jams, pies, shortcakes, frozen to be enjoyed in winter and shared with family and friends.

This task was accomplished on a sunny, blue-sky day with a balmy breeze.  The only sounds were from birds, insects, and quiet comments from a fellow picker.  Once in a while, a berry found its way into our mouths.  There is nothing sweeter tasting than a freshly picked strawberry.  All my memories of berry gathering are times shared with family, but the most breathtaking depiction of familial berry gathering shines in Berry Song (Little, Brown And Company, July 19, 2022) written and illustrated by Michaela Goade, a member of the Tlingit Nation and Caldecott Medalist.  Through her luminescent illustrations and eloquent words we are conveyed to another place and time.

On an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea,
Grandma shows me how to live on the land.

From the water herring eggs are found nestled on hemlock branches, seaweed along the shore is plucked, and salmon is gathered in nets near a falls. Venturing from the water, the grandmother and her grandchild move to the forest.  It's time to pick berries.

The berries are singing to them.  As they begin to gather the berries, they sing out the different berry names.  They continue to sing for the berries and any bear in the area.  Grandmother and child know the land speaks to them as they speak to it.

As they work, the land communicates to them through their sensory experiences.  They, in turn, express their thanks.  This relationship between the land and the people is one of stewardship and provider.  It has been honored from generation to generation and will continue into the future.  

The child knows we are not separate from the land or the sea.  We are intrinsically linked.  At home, the gathered berries are cooked into delectable goodness, some consumed immediately and others to be savored later.  Outside the seasons are shifting.  Years pass and that granddaughter goes into the forest again, her little sister holding her hand.

With a single sentence, author Michaela Goade takes us into a wonderful world, a world full of the blessings given to people by our seas and land. Sentence by sentence, each one like the verse in a mantra spoken through time, our relationship with our beloved planet grows stronger.  Her words sing out an acknowledgement, affection, and deep appreciation in a timeless and timely tribute.  Here is a passage.

The forest sings to us,
through misting rain
and whoosh of wing,
the sweet smell of cedar
and the tickle of moss.

We sing too, so the land
knows we are grateful.

When you look at the front, right side, of the open dust jacket, it looks as though the berries and leaves have the grandmother and her grandchild in a loving embrace.  The grandmother openly welcomes this as her granddaughter relishes it.  The color palette shown here is just a hint of the beauty that follows within the pages of this book.  The berries here are varnished.  To the left of the spine, on the back, different berries and leaves frame a depiction of the sea and land cloudy with mist.  There we read some of the words to the berry song---

Thimbleberry, Swampberry,
Bogberry, Chalkberry,
Lingonberry, Raspberry,
Bunchberry, Cranberry

On the book case, the back portion to the left of the spine is identical to the jacket.  The front of the case is different.  It is here we can see how the berry song is passed from one person to another person.  The grandmother on the jacket has been replaced with an older version of her granddaughter.  Next to her, with eyes closed, is her younger sister, contented and committing the berry song to memory.

On the opening and closing endpapers against a deep blue, green and black blended background, artist Michaela Goade has featured, between the two sets of endpapers sixteen different berries with their foliage.  Each berry is labeled with their Tlingit name and more common name in white.  On the opening endpapers is A Note To The Forager citing the wisdom of only selecting foods you know are edible and to do so with 

an experienced adult.

On the title and verso pages is a double-page picture of the entire area, a bird's eye view through mist.  On the left in the upper portion we can see their home.  Along the bottom edge, we are close to berries.  Throughout the book, these two-page and single-page images are rendered

in watercolor and mixed media.

Several of the double-page visuals show more than one activity.  Many of the single-page illustrations are framed by a liberal amount of white space or flora.  All the images are a resplendent depiction of what the grandmother and her granddaughter are doing at any given moment, but are also an invitation to readers to observe the world surrounding them.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  The color palette reflects the sun dipping toward the horizon. Warm and rusty rose covers the view at the top of the page of land and sea.  Bald eagles rest and fly on the right side.  On the left side on a hilltop in glowing yellow and green hues sits the grandmother and granddaughter, full berry bowls next to them.  The grandmother holds her granddaughter close as they look at the vista before them.  The scene is replete with flora native to the area.  Along the bottom are berries with their leaves.  To join them there would be a great gift, but just seeing this image is enough.

This stunning book, Berry Song written and illustrated by Michaela Goade, is a reverent ode to the land and sea and its bond to us.  At the close of the book two pages are dedicated to Tlingit life, island life, and Michaela Goade's experiences picking berries.  She also discusses three paired phrases used in this story---

We speak to the land
as the land speaks to us.

We take care of the land
as the land takes care of us.

We are a part of the land
as the land is a part of us.

I know you'll want to have a copy of this book in both your personal and professional collections.  With every reading its elegance grows.

To learn more about Michaela Goade and her other work, please access her website by following the link attached to her name.  Michaela Goade has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view the book trailer.

Michael Goade Presents BERRY SONG from LB School on Vimeo.

Friday, August 12, 2022

The Taste Of Making A Difference

There has never been another as delectable as it was.  It was so creamy, rich, and smooth your senses sighed in bliss.  The recipe came from my grandmother.  My mother kept it in a special place.  Handwritten on a single card, the process had several steps, took hours, and a strong arm.

We turned a crank which spun a metal container with paddles inside.  This metal container was inside a wooden bucket.  Between the bucket and metal container was a perfect fusion of salt and ice.  Inside the metal container was a mix of ingredients which made the best homemade ice cream I have ever tasted.

Due to the cost of the ingredients, the making of this ice cream was limited.  Nevertheless, a fondness for this food was firmly formed from the time I was a little girl.  Fortunately for me and a lot of other people, two others were developing an appetite for this tasty cool treat.  The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Revolution (Abrams Books For Young Readers, May 10, 2022) written by Lisa Robinson with illustrations by Stacy Innerst tells the tale of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, their friendship, their business, and their pursuit of social activism.  This lively, humorous story in words and artwork will appeal to readers senses' as surely as every lick and spoonful of their favorite flavor of ice cream.

Close your eyes and imagine holding an ice cream cone.

We are next encouraged to wonder how it tastes.  Of what does it remind us?  Is it chocolate or Wavy Gravy?  Where does the name Wavy Gravy originate?

We meet Ben and Jerry in 1963 when they are twelve years old.  Ben favors art and Jerry favors science, but they enjoy other things.  They both love ice cream.  In fact one year, Jerry tells jokes to customers while Ben drives an ice cream truck.

After high school and college their paths diverge until one day they reconnect.  They want to start their own business.  A bagel business idea is not feasible, but ice cream making makes more sense.  They brainstorm the best place to locate their shop.

They rent an abandoned gas station which needs both their efforts and the skill of a plumber to fix.  Combining their talents, they create a mixture for the best-tasting ice cream.  Ben & Jerry's opens on May 5, 1978.  Is it smooth sailing until now?  No.  You won't believe how they get the right size pieces of toffee for Coffee Toffee Bar Crunch.  Pillsbury threatens to pull their ice cream products in stores that sell Ben & Jerry's ice cream. What?!  We know who wins.  

They ask customers to give them ice cream name suggestions.  Some work, others end up in the Flavor Graveyard.  Still more are a reflection of their beliefs about social justice.  Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield believe they are responsible to their employees, their community, society and our planet.  To this end the Ben & Jerry's Foundation exists today.  Perhaps knowing this is what makes Ben & Jerry's ice cream a memorable frozen delight.

Author Lisa Robinson begins this nonfiction narrative by appealing directly to us with an invitation. (She also uses this invitation to fashion a pleasing conclusion.) She continues by explaining those things Ben and Jerry enjoy as twelve year old guys in the early sixties.  Specific incidents and details throughout the book bring this duo and the development of their dream to life for readers.  Word choices relative to ice cream and conversational sentences along with liberal measures of humor keep you turning pages as fast as you can . . . and then you read it again.  Here is a passage.

Still more challenges churned their way---like how to make their
flavors stand out.  There were already so many kinds of ice cream for
sale!  What if they dreamed up fabulous flavors with cool names, like
Chunky Monkey, Phish Food, and Dastardly Mash?

They welcomed customers' ideas, too.  An anonymous postcard arrived
suggesting "Cherry Garcia," named after a popular musician, Jerry
Garcia.  The cherry ice cream with fudge flakes quickly became a hit.

When you look at the front, right side, of the dust jacket, you see all the interested parties, Ben and Jerry, ice cream consumers, and a cow.  This cow and others are featured throughout the book to tell ice cream jokes embedded in the images and as a tribute to their importance in Ben and Jerry's venture.  The title text is varnished.  To the left, on the back, an interior illustration is used.  It shows Ben and Jerry and three cows seated at a round table.  One cow's back is to us.  The other is wearing glasses and reading some papers.  The other is licking an ice cream cone as it reads its papers.  Ben is speaking.  Colorful clouds above them mirror their thoughts.

On the book case a field of beautifully blended greens supplies the background for a cow leaning down and chewing grass.  The cow's body extends across the back and front with the cow facing right.  Three ice cream cones are positioned on the left and on the right.

The opening and closing endpapers are a brilliant magenta.  Ben and Jerry standing next to each other, and a cow at the bottom are collectively holding a sign with the text for the title page.  These images rendered in

watercolor, ink, and Photoshop

by Stacy Innerst are a creative and comical combination of single and double-page pictures.

As evidenced by the particular elements included in the visuals, Stacy Innerst did research on this twosome and the time period in which they grew as individuals and in which their ice cream success heightened.  Careful readers will notice the style of the bicycles the boys rode and the cards attached on a front wheel to make a well-known noise, the attire worn by Ben and Jerry and the "groovy" sunglasses in the final double-page picture.  The mailman delivering a postcard bears a striking resemblance to a famous musician.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It is of the ice cream truck the two worked in one summer.  The truck spans from left to right with the front of it on the right.  On the left side, Jerry is leaning out a window handing a cone to a child while telling a joke.  On the right side, Ben sits behind the wheel of the truck.  In the lower, right-hand corner is the upper portion of a smiling cow telling two ice cream jokes highlighted in a speech balloon.

You'll be heading to the freezer or the closest grocery store after reading The Sweetest Scoop Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Revolution written by Lisa Robinson with artwork by Stacy Innerst.  The more we understand why people do what they do, the more we are inspired by their accomplishments.  At the conclusion of the book is a one-page Author's Note followed by a two-page Timeline and a page of Sources.  You will want to add this title to both your professional and personal collections.  (I'm going to start snacking on Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Therapy as soon as this post is completed.)

To learn more about Lisa Robinson and Stacy Innerst and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Lisa Robinson has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Stacy Innerst has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.  Lisa Robinson is interviewed about this title at Jena Benton's Simply 7 and Maria Marshall's The Picture Book BuzzStacy Innerst is interviewed about this title at Picture Book Builders.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

More Than One Way . . .

Decades ago, more than truckers had CB radios in their vehicles.  This was a time before mobile or cell phones.  CB radios provided a sense of security in case of an emergency. (My handle was Book Mama.)  The conversations between truckers were entertaining and informative.  They would often alert drivers of traffic congestion and alternate routes to follow.  Truckers would honk their horns when it was safe to pass and flash their lights when it was good to move back into a lane.  Travelers got the sense they were a part of a highway group who would look out for each other.

Truckers haul goods within a neighborhood, a state, or from one side of the country to another.  They are essential connectors.  In Big Truck Little Island (Candlewick Press, May 3, 2022) written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, a truck becomes the focus of an unexpected complication.  It is children who propose the obvious.

Out on the ocean, one bright summer day,
bound for an island, still five miles away,
a tugboat was towing a truck on a barge---
a truck that was hauling a load, extra large.

The load on the truck was covered, hidden from sight.  After the barge docked on one side of the island, the truck needed to reach the opposite side, an eastern meadow, by traversing a narrow winding road.  Progress was slow, the load weighed twenty plus tons.

The driver was at the beginning of his route when a switchback threw him a curve.  The twenty-plus-ton load shifted and the trailer was no longer under his control.  As luck would have it, the trailer stuck fast in the mud, but now the road was blocked.

Soon four cars, two from the north and two from the south, wanted to pass.  Meg, Barry, Pete, and Sue had things to do.  Parents with patience waning waited.  Meg, Barry, Pete, and Sue left their vehicles and gathered.  They devised a perfect plan.  

As friends and neighbors, they knew what to do.  So, a swim meet, ballet practice, science project, and dog wash were attended on time.  What happened to the truck, you ask?  Like the barge brought it to the island, a wrecker pulled it clear.  That night, the load on the truck's trailer was disclosed to the islanders.  It was a marvelous sight.

Whether read silently or aloud, the words penned by Chris Van Dusen create a lively, inviting cadence.  His rhyming couplets freely flow, forming a tale of cleverness and community.  His definitive word choices take us to a memorable place and time.  Here is a passage.

The trailer was tipping, everything slipping!
The wheels in the way back were no longer gripping!
They skidded and slid off the road and then---

Rendered in gouache, the full color artwork by Chris Van Dusen we see first on the open and matching dust jacket and book case gives us on the front, right side, the dilemma the truck driver and neighbors face.  To the left of the spine, on the back, on a cornflower blue background is an oval image.  On the white canvas, Barry, Meg, Pete, and Sue are assessing the situation and discussing a solution.  The title text on the jacket is varnished.

The pale yellow in the sky on the front of the jacket and case and in the title text is used for the opening and closing endpapers.  A luminescent image precedes the title page.  A blazing sun in a yellow sky fashions a shimmering path on the waterway.  In the distance along the horizon, the tugboat is pulling the truck and trailer on the barge.  With a page turn a double-page picture spreads between the verso and title pages.  We have moved up close to the tug, barge, truck and trailer.  On the far right we can see the island coming into view.  Dolphins dive on the right side of the vehicles as if to guide them.  Seagulls act as guardians.

Chris Van Dusen alternates between double-page images, full-page visuals, and smaller illustrations set in white space.  His representations of the four children waiting in their cars with visions of where they must be are fabulous.  They are set against the rocky walls rising on the side of the road.

His perspectives are stunning, offering us a gorgeous bird's eye view of the island and then we find ourselves feeling as though we are a passenger in the truck when the load shifts, dragging it over the edge of the road.  We experience the shock of the driver, the driver with a MOM tattoo on his arm.  His canine companion looks at the back, equally shocked by the sound.

The hues in his illustrations are breathtaking in their realism.  Near photographic details bring us deeply into the narrative.  Wildlife is present as is island flora like lupines.  The facial expressions on all the characters supply us with a clear understanding of their emotions. 

One of my many favorite illustrations is of Sue, her sheepdog Bunk and her Mom stopped by the truck crossing the road.  Sue is imaging Bunk at the dog wash.  He had a meeting with a skunk.  Sue's mom has a clothespin on her nose.  Sue is plugging her nose with her fingers as Bunk squeezes through the open window next to her.  Bunk is happy as the proverbial clam.

This book, Big Truck Little Island written and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, is based on a real event.  An author's note describes the incident.  If you are seeking a story about community and cooperation, this title is a brilliant choice.  Readers will gasp at the last double-page image.  I highly recommend this title for both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Chris Van Dusen and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  You will enjoy the informative Q &A section.  Chris Van Dusen has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  At the publisher's website, you can download an activity kit and a teacher's guide.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior illustrations.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Distinctive Orange Marvels

Two.  Just two.  That is the number of monarchs seen this year.  An entire garden was planted to entice them to visit.  Hummingbirds, a variety of bees, and smaller butterflies do enjoy the nectar, but the absence of larger butterflies is telling.  This autumn country roads will be traveled to harvest a few milkweed seed pods to add those plants to the garden.  Nurturing nature needs to be part of our lives.

On July 21, 2022, the migratory monarch butterfly was placed on the IUCN Red List as endangered.  It has only been forty-seven short years since their annual trek from north to south and back was discovered.  This understanding began with a single individual and grew to encompass people from three countries.  The Mystery Of The Monarchs: How Kids, Teachers, and Butterfly Fans Helped Fred and Norah Urquhart Track the Great Monarch Migration (Alfred A. Knopf, May 31, 2022) written by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Erika Meza chronicles the human journey to solve the puzzle of these noble insects.

Fred Urquhart ate breakfast, grabbed his satchel, and started his walk to school.
Thank goodness he stopped at the marsh.

At the young age of eight, Fred was firmly attached to the study of insects.  Year after year, his collection of specimens grew.  One year, Fred was intrigued by an article he read about 

migrating butterflies.

He wondered about the monarchs, his favorite butterflies.  No one knew where they went.  Fred was determined to be the someone who found the answer.

Fred studied entomology.  He started to collect the monarchs and placed labels on their wings. (Making labels that worked was a tricky business.)  He hoped people would find the labeled butterflies and reach out to him.  Ten years later, he was no closer to a solution.

Norah, Fred's wife, was completely taken with his quest.  They developed a better label, asking those who found tagged butterflies to


They knew they needed more help tagging the monarchs.  They placed notices in magazines and newspapers in the United States (and eventually Mexico).  The response was slow but it grew.  People of all ages and from all walks of life, especially teachers and students, joined the 

Insect Migration Association.

The Urquharts plotted routes on a large map.  They drove all over the United States and into Mexico, but the mystery was still not solved.  There was another couple, a couple who lived in Mexico, that loved traveling.  In January 1975, this duo found a magnificent scene among the mountains in Mexico.  They notified the Urquharts.  When Fred and Norah arrived there the following year, more than forty years after Fred wanted to solve the puzzle, Fred found something wonderful.

Through her meticulous research, author Barb Rosenstock presents a compelling narrative of Fred and Norah Urquhart and everyone who helped them.  Layer by layer with explicit facts, this nonfiction picture book builds toward its exciting conclusion.  We become a part of each layer, turning the pages with our hope growing.  As we read the final paragraph, followed by a question and two words, our involvement is so thorough we want to stand up and shout.  Here is a passage.

It was still a mystery.
One year 13,800 monarchs were tagged and 128 were returned.  The next, 17,000 were tagged and 298 returned.  Fred, Norah, and their "butterfly family" were getting closer to an answer.  Year by year, monarch by monarch, the lines on Fred and Norah's map pointed farther south.  Ontario to Alabama, Indiana to Mississippi, New York to Florida.

The two scenes displayed on the open and matching dust jacket and book case appear to be a single image, but they are not.  On the front, right side, we see Fred and Norah near the spine watching all those people, young and old, who helped them by capturing and releasing labeled butterflies over decades.  By the landscape and architecture, we are able to determine this is in a northern region.

To the left, on the back, are more people, of all ages.  By the landscape and architecture, we realize this is a mountainous region to the south, across the border of the United States.  Here the people are welcoming the arrival of the monarchs.  In both illustrations, the individuals are taking joy in the monarchs and their flight.

On the opening and closing endpapers is an intricate pattern in orange and pink, acting as a background.  Placed on top of this are monarchs, grasses, leaves, and flowers.  There are seven separate visuals.  The verso and title pages feature monarchs in flight, a tribute to Homero Gomez Gonzalez, and an envelope with a returned monarch inside it.

These illustrations by Erika Meza rendered

using acrylic gouache, watercolor, ink, coffee splashes, and pastel pencils, before using Photoshop to tie it all up

make excellent use of white space as a way of highlighting the colorful elements and as a canvas for the text.  They are double-page pictures, single-page pictures, and sometimes several smaller images on a single page.  A variety of perspectives showcase the pacing and story.  The fine lines and delicate details fully engage readers.  These include dotted lines to indicate the flight of monarchs and origami butterflies to indicate the "flight" of correspondence and outreach.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single page picture.  It shows Norah seated in a winged, light orange chair near a window.  Outside the window is a blue sky, several trees and two monarchs in flight.  Next to Norah on her left is a side table stacked with letters.  She is opening one of them with her dog seated next to her.  On a larger table on her right is a monarch specimen, an orange dial phone, an outgoing letter box, and a lamp.  Four origami butterflies fly above that table and Norah.

It is more important than it has ever been to be stewards of our planet.  In The Mystery Of The Monarchs: How Kids, Teachers, and Butterfly Fans Helped Fred and Norah Urquhart Track the Great Monarch Migration written by Barb Rosenstock with artwork by Erika Meza, readers will be inspired by the dream of one man which was shared by his wife and a host of people in Canada, the United States and Mexico over decades.  At the close of the book are an author's note and illustrator's note which are necessary reading.  They are followed by a page dedicated to the life cycle of the monarch butterfly.  A section on butterfly generations and the teacher and students who labeled the butterfly found by Fred Urquhart in Mexico are next.  There are several citizen monarch groups discussed and a list of selected sources on the final two pages.  I read the article in the University of Toronto Magazine, August 24, 2015 by Alec Scott titled "Where Do You Go, My Lovelies?"  It is excellent.  I know you will want a copy of this title in your professional and personal collections.  You can pair it with Winged Wonders: Solving The Monarch Migration Mystery by Meg Pincus with illustrations by Yas Imamura and Senorita Mariposa by Ben Gundersheimer with illustrations by Marcos Almada Rivero.

To learn more about Barb Rosenstock and Erika Meza and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Barb Rosenstock has extra resources on her website for this book.  Barb Rosenstock has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Erika Meza has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Do You See What I See In The Sea?

Of all the times, I have sailed on the ocean, motorboated on lakes and canoed on rivers, none have been sighted.  Walking on the sandy shores of oceans and lakes and along the muddy banks of rivers or streams and looking over the water, my gaze never rested on one.  Every morning as the lake comes into view, I hope.  Will something unexpected from the realm of fantasy or legend appear?

If something extraordinary did come into view, what would I do?  Monsters In The Briny (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2022) written by Lynn Becker with illustrations by Scott Brundage supplies rhythmic answers to that question.  Readers will be toe-tapping, knee-slapping and dancing to the cadence created by rollicking rhymes and out-of-this-world colorful and highly animated images.

What do you do with a grumpy kraken?
Crabby, cranky, crusty kraken?
What do you do with a grumpy kraken?
Kraken in the briny. 

Three replies to these first three questions provide solutions.  You will need to have a keen sense of humor, be a master chef, and play a musical instrument well enough to teach it to a kraken.  Of course, the kraken still causes considerable trouble.

For those of you not familiar with a sea goat, it is part goat and part fish.  When it arrives, the crew on the ship decide to give this less-than-desirable creature a makeover.  It leaves but not before doing damage.

The ship and its sailors are visited individually by a serpent, a turtle (enormous), and a hydra.  Each of these monsters have their own set of problems.  One is feeling sickly, the other is deeply saddened, and the third is hungry, exceedingly hungry.

The clever crew knows exactly what to do.  At first, it seems as if the trio are satisfied, but then a frustrated sailor gives a shout.  Will the monsters, now numbering five, rectify their wrongs?

With the introduction of the kraken, author Lynn Becker reveals a repeating presentation.  She begins with three questions replete with alliteration, followed by three replies with the last words in each stanza rhyming, and concludes with three problems the ship still has.  These problems each end with rhyming words and begin with the words:

Yo! Ho!

The words

in the briny

tie all three sections together with their repetition.  Even if this sea shanty did not have a tune (it does), readers will certainly be unable to sit still after the first three sections.  Here is the third section for the kraken.

Yo! Ho! and ARRR!
We're flooding,
Yo! Ho! The deck is mudding,
Yo! Ho! Our anchor's thudding,

Kraken in the briny.

By opening the matching dust jacket and book case, you can see the extent of the featured monster, the kraken.  The water extends from the left to the right, back to the front.  There are two more arms visible on the left, eight in total.  Small schools of fish swim on both the front and the back.  The ISBN is placed on a broken piece of wood like the author and illustrator names.  The seventh arm, on the back, rises above the water in the upper, left-hand corner.  It holds a smiling sailor playing an accordion.  

The opening and closing endpapers are a crisp white.  Prior to the title page, we see sky and water and the tips of two tentacles coming from the depths.  A two-page image spans the verso and title pages.  Here the vessel is sailing through the waves on the right.  On the left, one tentacle is lifted above the water like a submarine periscope aimed at the ship.

Like the narrative, artist Scott Brundage has a measured depiction in his illustrations.  He has two single-page pictures followed by a double-page visual for each of the monsters.  After the dramatic exclamation by the sailor, the remainder of the illustrations are two-page images.

To heighten our involvement in this story, Scott Brundage alters his perspectives.  At times we are given a more panoramic view and then we are close to the action, as if we are one of the sailors.  During most of the book, the sailors maintain a happy disposition.  We know this through their smiles, dancing, and playing of musical instruments.  This is not to say, that sometimes chaos ensues.  Readers will love seeing all the different children portrayed.  All the moods of the sailors and the monsters are clearly known by their facial expressions, especially their eyes and mouths.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture.  This is when the crew are tending the depressed turtle.  On the right side of the picture we see the turtle's neck and head filling nearly half the page.  There is a rain cloud over its head.  Several of the sailors are holding umbrellas to shelter the monster.  Another is leaning over the head cleaning her beak with a soapy, long-handled brush.  At the tip-top of the mast on the right, the accordion-playing sailor plays a tune.  (Readers will look for him in all the illustrations.)

Readers and listeners will be begging you to read Monsters In The Briny written by Lynn Becker with artwork by Scott Brundage repeatedly.  This is a read-aloud winner!  At the close of the book, there are A Few Words about Sea Shanties and five paragraphs of "truths" about the monsters along with artwork.  On the final page is sheet music and the words about the first monster.  I highly recommend this title for both your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Lynn Becker and Scott Brundage and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Lynn Becker has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Scott Brundage has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  There is a Monsters In The Briny website which includes a karaoke link, activity sheets, and the book trailer.  Lynn Becker is interviewed about her work and this book at Maria Marshall's website.  Lynn Becker pens a guest post at Beth Anderson's site about her writing and this book.  This book and an interview with Lynn Becker are showcased on Kathleen Temean's site.  The cover reveal and interviews with both creators can be found at Celebrate Picture Books.