Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, October 27, 2022

They Were Designing Women

There are still two huge trunks filled with fabric.  This fabric is richly spun and colored in an array of breathtaking motifs.  Some have been used to fashion gifts for newborns or lifelong friends.  Others await to be paired with collected patterns for clothing, interior home decor, or quilts.  A few, a very few, are there simply because of their beauty.

Two recent publications feature extraordinary women; women who were drawn to fabric and what can be made from fabric.  Both harnessed their passion, their talent, for design to rise to the top of their respective artistic realms.  Written by Jeanne Walker Harvey with illustrations by Diana Toledano, Dressing Up The Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, September 20, 2022) is the story of a young girl, a behind-the-scenes person, who grew to transform settings and characters through her personal perspectives.

Edith was a shy, lonely girl who didn't feel she belonged where she lived.  She wanted to be in a place full of people and sounds and dazzling sights.

Edith's family lived in a small town near a mine due to her stepfather's employment.  As far as her eyes could see was stone and sand.  To keep her loneliness at bay, Edith held tea parties for her animal friends and dressed them in doll clothes, necklaces and huge ribbons.

Sometimes when her family traveled four miles to the nearby town of Searchlight, Nevada, Edith would go door to door asking for pieces of fabric to place in her treasured bag.  Back at home she would use these pieces to sew accessories for her pet horned toads.  Unafraid Edith roamed the desert alone, but when she made costumes for sisters in a play, she stayed behind the curtain.

Edith longed to leave the desert.  Finally, she and her mother moved to Los Angeles so she could attend a high school.  Here, she tried to figure out the path she would take, but it was at the local movie theater she felt a dream start to grow.

After college and several years of teaching, Edith got a job as a sketch artist in a costume department.  Her boss recognized her lack of skills, but instead of firing her, he taught her.  At first Edith's designs were far from good, but she practiced and practiced and practiced.  She was finally making costumes . . . for movie animals.

From there, Edith was asked to fit humans with costumes.  She was not an instant success, but years of work lead to her eventual prominence.  One special night, the first of eight such nights, Edith heard her name announced in a large venue filled with movie people.  The lonely little girl was now a star!

In her writing of this biography, Jeanne Walker Harvey allows readers, regardless of their age, to find portions of themselves in the life of this woman.  Readers can identify with her loneliness, shyness, trying to discover her life's work, and pursuit, however hard, of a creative style.  Jeanne Walker Harvey includes specific details such as the names of the burros Edith, as a little girl, embellished with ribbons, a personal quote by Edith and the disastrous particulars of candy costumes for characters attending a glamorous dance.  In the beginning of this narrative, an adjective is used to describe Edith's big wish.  It is used again as the last word in the last sentence.  This is a wonderful writing technique.  Here is a passage.

Instead, she dressed up animals.
They were not easy clients.

Camels spit on her.  Elephants yanked off their decorations.
Edith missed her desert toads and burros, who let her
adorn them without a fuss.

But Edith was confident.

When viewing the open and matching dust jacket and book case, the bright white background highlights the exquisitely rendered elements in Diana Toledano's signature illustrative interpretation.  To the right of the spine, on the front, we see Edith Head at the height of her career amid fabric and fashions designed by her.  To the left of the spine, on the back, Edith, as a little girl, is seated.  Here she is surrounded by pieces of fabric and sewing accessories like buttons, pins, needles and thread.  She is carefully stitching a hat for one of her horned toads.  On the front, the main title text is raised to the touch.  Here and on the back, the colorful elements are varnished.

On the opening and closing endpapers and on the first and last pages, on a white canvas, Diana Toledano has placed beautifully patterned, in two hues of muted blue, an array of clothing and accessories.  Each item is part of a pleasing whole.  On the title page, again in full color, we see Edith Head's hands as she works at her desk covered with drawings of possible designs. 

This artwork was created

by hand using many techniques:  gouache, collage, colored pencils, crayons, pastels, and more.  

It was digitally edited.  Most of the images are double-page pictures.  For those that are not, several smaller illustrations are grouped to show the passage of time or a series of similar events.

Intricately detailed visuals portray and enhance the text marvelously.  We feel the vastness of the barren landscape, home to Edith as a child.  We rejoice in her imaginative play and sewing endeavors.  We feel as though we are seated with her in the movie theater when she is a teen.  We struggle when she struggles and cheer when she is triumphant.  The patterns used in each of these images all allude to her lifetime accomplishments. 

One of my many favorite illustrations is a two-page nighttime scene.  Along the bottom of the pages are rolling sandy and rocky hills.  There are hints of desert flora on these hills.  On the left side, near a bush or perhaps a cactus, Edith sits, legs outstretched and leaning on her arms behind her.  Her head is tilted up.  The deep blue sky is filled with red, pink, blue, purple and white stars along with a crescent moon.  Etched in the stars, in white, are city buildings.  Edith wished to leave the desert and live in a big city. 

Readers will certainly be inspired when reading Dressing Up The Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head written by Jeanne Walker Harvey with illustrations by Diana Toledano.  From gathering scraps of fabric by going door to door in a tiny desert town to making costumes for famous actors and actresses in Hollywood, this woman rose to the top through perseverance.  There is a list of books and websites as resources at the end of this title.  You will want to place a copy of this fascinating biography in your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Jeanne Walker Harvey and Diana Toledano and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Jeanne Walker Harvey has accounts on Pinterest and Twitter.  Diana Toledano has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can download some activity sheets and view interior images as well as the dust jacket. The cover reveal with author and illustrator conversations is at John Schu's Watch. Connect. Read.  The book trailer premiered at KidLitTV.  This title with interviews is highlighted at author Erin Dealey's site, Geeks Out, Mutually Inclusive, and Alfred Hitchcock Master.

Sometimes, we become our best selves because we are enveloped by it for as long as we can remember.  It is a part of every moment of our lives.  It is fostered by those we love and who love us.  Only the Best: The Exceptional Life and Fashion of Ann Lowe (Chronicle Books, October 18, 2022) written by Kate Messner and Margaret E. Powell with illustrations by Erin K. Robinson chronicles the growth of Ann Lowe into a remarkable talent.  Her hard work, in the face of unjust odds, sets her apart and cements her place in history.

In a stately Alabama
mansion, women in bright dresses
twirl before a mirror.

Their gowns glow like moonlight---
glimmering fabrics and 
the soft sheen of pearls. 

In another part of town, a ball has begun.  It is here those gowns worn by those women swirl around the dance floor.  Away from the festivities, a young girl wanders in a garden marveling at the perfection of its flowers.  She dreams of forming this perfection from fabric.  

Inside, in a shop, Ann's grandmother and mother sew gowns from rolls of fabric.  She gathers the scraps, making blossoms from cloth.  Her mother teaches her to make dresses and gowns from brown paper patterns.  She learns how to finish each creation with flare and precision.

As New Year's Eve approaches one year, Ann's mother becomes ill and passes away.  Ann hides her sorrow and finishes all those gowns for all those ladies.  A year passes and Ann is on her way to Florida to sew for a wealthy family.  Soon, Tampa is talking about the one-of-a-kind dresses made by Ann.  Ann dreams of seeing her dresses in fashion magazines.  Knowing she needs to learn more, she heads to New York City.

Studying at the S. T. Taylor School in Manhattan is hard for a Black student.  Working alone in a separate room, Ann flourishes and completes the course with honors.  Returning to Florida, she works even more, saving for her own shop.  Still frustrated, Ann returns to New York City, asking for work in the most prestigious shop.  Ann simply won't take no for an answer.  She completes a dress, returns to the shop, and that same day her dress is sold.

Ann's work at the shop is impeccable and highly prized.  She is asked to make the wedding gown for Jacqueline Bouvier and the dresses for her party.  A week before the wedding, disaster strikes.  Ann is not deterred.  She is determined to deliver the gown and dresses herself.  Yet again, she finds herself relegated to second-class status.  This is simply not Ann.  This is simply not the best.  Did she prevail?

Through the writing of Kate Messner and Margaret E. Powell, the magic felt by those who wore Ann Lowe's designs and that magic she lovingly sewed into them is brought fully to life.  Lyrical text filled with highly descriptive places and times fashions an intimate portrait for readers.  Repetition of words and phrases draws us into the story with its cadence.  The knowledge these authors have garnered from their study and research is evident in the facts folded into the narrative.  Here is a passage.

Ann folds up her feelings and
tucks away her tears.  She works
day and night, the way her mother
taught her.  Only the best will do.
Measure, snip, pin up the hems.
Thread the needle.
Pull the stitch tight.
Embroider the last lovely bloom. 

In a word, the images by Erin K. Robinson are enchanting.  The pattern of a blue-hued background with shades of pink and purple flowers amid greenery extends from the front, across the spine, and to the far left edge.  The looping ribbon ties the two portions together.  Elegantly seated in a chair, Ann Lowe is beneath the three words which guided her work.  The three word main title text and three circular designs are varnished. 

The book case takes the pattern from the back of the dust jacket and uses it for the back of the case.  This pattern continues in a mirror image on the front of the case.  The ribbon shown on the jacket remains along the bottom on both sides of the case.  There is the addition of the larger circular element shown on the jacket to the curve made by the ribbon on both the front and back of the book case.  (If this is fabric designed by Ann Lowe, any person wearing it would feel heavenly.)

A pale cream infused with hints of pink covers the opening and closing endpapers.  There is a textured hint of flowers on a vine close to the bottom of the pages.  We see scissors, needle and thread and a dressmaker's form within this artwork along with leaves and those circular elements.  The verso and title pages are joined by two pink ribbons.  A floral arrangement frames the four corners of the text on the title page.


digitally in Procreate

each page turn reveals another double-page visual (or a few single-page pictures) certain to envelope readers.  We feel as though we are intertwined into the fabric of Ann Lowe's life.  We are there as she walks in the garden as a child.  We are there when she makes flowers from fabric scraps.  We are there, looking down on her and her mother, as she learns to make and use patterns.  We are there as she watches Jacqueline Kennedy's gown billow about her on her wedding day.  We are there when she sews wherever and whenever she can.  Erin K. Robinson uses texture, pattern, light and shadow to great effect.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It is when Ann's mother is teaching her to cut patterns.  The color palette is a soothing selection of peach shades, pale blue, pale green, and a warm gray.  The fabric on the table before the mother and daughter is enlarged to fill the left side.  There they are placed as if we are looking down on them.  Their hands are on the table with the fabric and brown paper patterns.  A pair of scissors awaits use.  This is a tender moment of a mother's hand on her child's hand, guiding them.  An enlarged ribbon loops through the top and bottom of the visual.

Learning of this woman's life through reading Only the Best: The Exceptional Life and Fashion of Ann Lowe written by Kate Messner and Margaret E. Powell with illustrations by Erin K. Robinson will leave you in awe of her resolve.  At the close of the book is a two-page Author's Note.  This is followed by Quotations in Order of Events (two and one half pages) upon which portions of this book are based.  This is followed by a one and one-half page bibliography.  Your picture book biography collections, professional and personal, will be strengthened by containing a copy of this title.

To learn more about Kate Messner and Erin K. Robinson and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their current websites.  Sadly, Margaret E. Powell passed away in 2019.  Here is a link to a guest post she did on Kate's site in 2017.  Her Twitter account is still active.  Kate Messner has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Erin K. Robinson has an account on Instagram.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Leaf-ing Through The Pages

When the summer season shifts to autumn, the world and its living residents seem ready.  It's as if there is a collective sigh of relief to be rid of the excess heat, drought, and high humidity.  Granted there are days of much-needed rain in the fall, but the days of crystal-clear air, startling blue and cloudless skies and a warming sun with dazzling sunrises and sunsets are worth those gray days.   

The adornment of golden yellow, ruby red, and brilliant orange on the trees has resulted in longer walks with my canine companion.  There are dazzling panoramic views and leaves along our pathway which appear to have been carefully placed in particular spaces for our enjoyment.  Two 2022 titles focus on the enchantment of leaves and autumn.  In the first title our imaginations are set free by the discovery of a leaf.  If You Find a Leaf (Random House Studio, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, July 12, 2022) written and illustrated by Aimee Sicuro is an opportunity to create with abandon.  It is a time to think and wonder without limits.

If you find a leaf

You could dream the day away.

You can use the leaf to make a fashion statement or a vessel to ride the waves.  This leaf may take you to new heights or gently return you to woodlands, fields, farms, and yards brimming with leaves.  Have you thought about using a leaf or a cluster of leaves to weave a place to relax and read?

Depending on your size and a leaf's size, it can be a part of a Halloween costume.  There is no end to the type of apparel a leaf can become.  It might be a cape that lifts a superhero away to save the day.

More than one leaf can transport you and your friends to autumn activities.  Held aloft leaves can act as balloons in a sunny day parade for you and those same friends.  As darkness falls, you can pretend a large leaf is a glowing fire around which you all can continue to have fall fun.

Could a leaf be a cozy comforter?  All too soon it seems winds blow and leaves drift down from branches and boughs.  Then, we, like the world, wait.  We wait for one season to shift into another until we spy the first new green herald.

Author Aimee Sicuro opens her narrative with the title text and uses it throughout the book to bind sections together making for a flawless flow.  A rhythm as subtle as a leaf soaring on a gentle gust is made by the final word in sentences rhyming.  Her sentences are more like possibilities than declarations, inviting readers into the story.  Here are four contiguous sentences.

You could float high above the trees.
Parachuting down to see all the other leaves.

If you find a leaf, it could be a hammock.
A place for you to rest and sway in a gentle breeze.

The visual we see on the right side of the open dust jacket, the front, continues on the other side of the spine.  There, other children ride the watery swells in boats propelled by leaf sails.  On a grassy knoll on the far left, smoke comes from the chimney of a small cottage.  Other people there wave in greeting at the boaters.  You have to wonder if the other boaters are trying to catch up to our protagonist and her loyal canine companion.  The sky is filled with the light of a new day.

On the book case, from the left side to the right side is a single continuous illustration.  The golden orb, the sun, is rising over colorful autumn tree tops along the bottom on the left side.  The sky is awash in hues of blue and yellow.  On the left side, three birds fly upward.  On the right side, a large basswood leaf is a hot air balloon.  Riding in the basket is the girl and her dog.  She is focused on the autumn display beneath them.  Her dog is watching the birds.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a crisp white canvas.  There twenty-nine autumn leaves have been placed in rows.  They are labeled so all naturalists can use them to identify any leaves they encounter.

The crisp white background is used for the verso and title pages.  The text on the verso is shaped like a leaf.  A rough black line along the bottom of the two pages joins them together.  On the title page the girl has her arms raised toward a yellow maple leaf escaping through the title text.

These illustrations were rendered with

ink, watercolor, charcoal, photographs, and collage.

Readers will be fully captivated by the blend of mediums and the details included in each scene, especially the girl's bedroom.  Aimee Sicuro gives us vast landscapes to view and intimate portraits of captured moments.  Most of her visuals span two pages unless she wishes to highlight special creations.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a two-page picture.  Covering most of the right side is a rolling hill.  At the top of the hill is the children's destination, a barn.  The left side is a large roadway, tapering as it goes up the hill.  On this roadway are five cars formed from five different kinds of leaves.  Some of these vehicles have a single driver and others have a driver and a passenger behind them.  The dog is riding behind his girl, mouth open and tongue flapping in the breeze.  The leaves here and throughout the book are real leaves.  Other autumn leaves, painted, are blowing in the air.

This book, If You Find a Leaf written and illustrated by Aimee Sicuro, will have readers racing outside to find their own leaves or stopping more often to look as they are outside in autumn.  Can you envision all the other things that will be dreamed into existence?  At the close of the book, Aimee Sicuro has dedicated two pages to describing How to create your own (collage) world with fall leaves.  I highly recommend you add this title to your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Aimee Sicuro and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Aimee Sicuro has accounts on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images, including the endpapers.  Aimee Sicuro and Uma Krishnaswami visit Cynsationsthe site of author Cynthia Leitich Smith to talk about Aimee's work.

If You Find a Leaf by Aimee Sicuro from Let's Talk Picture Books on Vimeo.

For members of the leaf world, the cycle of tiny buds on a branch to completely unfurled and fully-grown leaves is quite an accomplishment, a marvel.  This second title, A Very BIG Fall (Clarion Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, August 2, 2022) written and illustrated by Emmy Kastner is about the change three leaves are about to experience.  Each of them will approach the transformation with a different attitude; much like humans.

All the leaves had ever known
was the sway and stretch and
green of the trees.

Then one day, the wind blew colder . . .

Each of the leaves, optimistic Birch, worry-wart Oak, and grumpy Maple, knew something was about to happen.  Two squirrels decided to tell the leaves that fall was coming.  Birch couldn't wait to change colors.  Oak was totally satisfied to stay green.  Maple was in denial.

"Oh, squirrels think they know everything."
Maple rolled her eyes.

Oak was soon golden and Birch was orange.  Maple was still green.  Waiting was intolerable.  Despite their current situation, the leaves were shocked further when one of the squirrels told them they were going to fall on the ground.

As you might surmise, the leaves burst into conversations loaded with questions.  Then, the wind began to blow.  Birch loved falling.  Oak cautiously proceeded.  Maple was still green.  She tried to hurry the process until another squirrel told her about all the bad things on the ground, things like boot bottoms and rakes.

Maple, now red from green, fell.  Chatting with Birch and Oak, she tried to warn them but more wind swirled around the leaves, carrying them away.  Then, the trio heard something new.  Change could be the best thing in the world in the right hands guided by a charming heart.

Through the words of Emmy Kastner, readers realize each of us embraces transitions dictated by our personalities.  For every event the trio shares, their views are clearly expressed.  This is how we come to understand no way is better than the other.  This technique brings readers into the story with the cadence of three, even when green seems to be stuck green.  The squirrels' commentary heightens the slight tension and comedy.  Here is a passage.

The wind blew harder yet.
And then it started to happen.

For Birch, it was a joyous leap
through the windy sky.

Oak had more of a hesitant trip downward.
"Am I close?" 

"Not really.  Keep going!"
said Birch.

Created using

acrylic gouache, colored pencil, and collage, with digital editing,

the images for this book are colorful and highly animated as we note initially from looking at the right side, the front, of the open dust jacket.  Each of the leaves has a distinguishing characteristic, boots, a floral pin, an acorn cap and a caterpillar companion.  Notice the facial expressions on all the other smaller leaves.  On the front the text and portions of the leaves are raised to the touch.  The colors here and on the back, to the left of the spine, are varnished.

On the back, a furry brown squirrel reaches out to touch the ISBN, as if it is a nut to be hidden for winter.  Around him red, orange, and yellow leaves fall from tree branches.  Gray brush strokes signify wind in both scenes.

On the book case, matte-finished, readers get a hint of the conclusion to this story.  Here is a collage of artwork, a combination of crayons, construction paper, and imagination.  This is certain to inspire even the most timid artists.

The opening and closing endpapers are a vibrant green.  On the title page, three trees represent each of the three leaves.  The verso and dedication pages follow with the tops of green trees bordering the bottom of both in a continuous line.  A robin flies left to right on the left side.  

Each page turn reveals a variety of illustration sizes, some double-page pictures, other smaller images grouped together and single-page pictures.  We are happily surprised by a two-page vertical picture.  Sometimes Emmy Kastner will have more than one perspective within a single visual.  We might be looking down on a setting or close among the leaves.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  The background is a wash of red, orange, and yellow.  Maple, still green, is seated on a pale brown branch with her knees up.  She is grumpy and frowning.  Each of her hands is placed on a knee.  Around her are branches from at least eight trees.  On them are all kinds of leaves in various moods.  There are red, orange, yellow, and brown leaves.  Most of them are happy.  One is wearing glasses.

Whether you are a one of those people who receive autumn with happiness or not, this book, A Very BIG Fall written and illustrated by Emmy Kastner, will have you smiling by the first page turn.  Readers will find themselves in the individual personalities of Birch, Oak, or Maple.  Use this title for a storytime on the seasons, autumn, change or the life cycle of leaves.  I know you will want to have a copy on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Emmy Kastner and her other work, please access her website by following the link attached to her name.  You will want to watch the book trailer there for this book.  Emmy Kastner has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Travis Jonker, at School Library Journal, 100 Scope Notes, interviews Emmy Kastner about this title, her other work, and her process artwork is discussed and shown.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

It's Time To Learn

There are certain things we are expected to know.  These assumptions are usually based upon multiple variables, but age, lifetime experiences, and areas of expertise figure prominently.  You will learn, some earlier than others, it is impossible to know everything others believe you should.  

For a few, it is hard to admit this lack of knowledge and understanding.  In Wake Me Up in 20 Coconuts! (Christy Ottaviano Books, Little, Brown And Company, September 20, 2022) written and illustrated by Laurie Keller, the protagonist finds it impossible to confess his absence of comprehension.  In the adept hands of this creative author and illustrator, hilarity happens.

Opposite the dedication and verso page, an illustration of the four-floor apartment building where the protagonists lives in 2C, his expertise is demonstrated by seven questions asked by other residents and the intelligent answers he gives.  These conversations are shown in fourteen artfully spaced speech balloons.  Careful readers will notice the first two words of the narrative tucked into this image.


This exclamation is spoken by the resident in apartment 2B upon discovering her alarm clock is broken.  She gets the attention of the occupant in 2C.  Without even thinking when asked if he will wake the being up in 2B in 20 coconuts, he replies in the affirmative.  (The resident in 1C just happens to be eavesdropping.)

Can you imagine the anxiety of the KNOW-IT-ALL neighbor when he realizes he has absolutely no idea what 20 coconuts means?  Knowing is a generational tradition that has never been broken until this moment!  He can ask 2B what 20 coconuts means, but then he will have to reveal his lack of knowing.  Yikes, what a dilemma!

As 2C is debating what to do, he discovers a sock and a 


chicken in his ear.  (Do you see what I mean about hilarity?) Perhaps, 2C did not hear 2B correctly.  The eavesdropping occupant in 1C says it was 20 coconuts.  Pretty soon, it seems other residents are speaking, through overheard conversations, in coconut time.  How is this possible?  2C believes his brain might be busted or, at the very least, it needs a cleaning.

Does the cleaning work?  Negative.  2C's phone is no help either.  The KNOW-IT-ALL neighbor is at his wit's end.  His shouting causes a neighbor's wig and another neighbor's bucket to land on his head.  But guess what?  2B is awake on time and thanks 2C.  She is so happy she asks 2C to do it tomorrow.  

The following discussion between neighbors 2B and 2C is one of compassion and truth.  The other apartment building residents listen in silence.  Now, you might think at this point a satisfying conclusion has been reached.  It has, BUT there is a comedic twist certain to have readers and listeners laughing like loons.

Told entirely in dialogue, author Laurie Keller sets the stage for one humorous moment after another humorous moment.  When the resident in 2C is trying to figure out what 20 coconuts means, his musings range from rational to ridiculous.  By repeating the word coconut over and over within the text, we feel the frustration of 2C increase along with the merriment.  Adding the voice of the chicken several times, elevates the laughter factor.  (It's not every day you pull a sock AND a chicken out of your ear!)  Here is a passage.

Why does
coconut time
except ME?


Did I break it
when I pulled out
the SOCK?

And the CHICKEN?

As you look at the right side, front, of the open dust jacket, artist Laurie Keller has included many elements important to the story.  We see residents of the apartment building in the four corners.  The window (brain) washer, Walter, is featured as is the nosey neighbor.  2B is dozing as 2C is trying to figure out when to wake her.  Of course, there are also a lot of coconuts.  This animated colorful invitation is certain to peak readers' interest.  When you run your hands over this image you will note the title text is raised.  The title text, 2B and 2C are varnished.

To the left of the spine, on the back, 2C is chatting with Walter.  As 2C leans out his window, Walter is washing the ISBN.  Walter asks what he is washing and the KNOW-IT-ALL neighbor explains.  (I love the cleverness of this, Laurie!)

On the book case, done in pale blue/green with rows of enlarged even paler blue/green dots, to the left of the spine is the chicken, looking small.  It says 


On the front of the book case are huge letters in purple spelling


In the letter "o" of you, is 2C, looking a bit concerned.  A brain, standing on the exclamation point, is saying

Even if you say

The opening and closing endpapers are the same color as 2C, a bright blue.  On the title page, three coconuts offer commentary about what they see there.  These illustrations by Laurie Keller 

were done in acrylic markers, watercolor collage, and Photoshop.

Every page is filled with energy, the elements are ready to jump off the pages and come to life in our spaces.  Laurie Keller alternates between single page images, to two images on a single page, or large dramatic visuals spread on both sides of the gutter.  Sometimes she will have several images on a single page to show the passage of time.  

We are brought close to the action, making this pictorial interpretation of the text a personal experience.  The text is shown in speech balloons or larger than life on the pages.  The expressions on the characters' faces leave no doubt as to their emotional state at any given time.  Readers will meticulously look at every image finding comedy in the smallest details.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the above highlighted text.  2C takes up half of the left side.  His eyes are huge and his brows are up because of worry.  His hands are placed on either side of his head.  It is the classic "what do I do now" look.  At the bottom of the page, just to the right of 2C is the chicken.  All we can see is most of the head with the beak wide open.  (I'm laughing!) 

No matter how many times you read Wake Me Up In 20 Coconuts! written and illustrated by Laurie Keller, you will find yourself unable to stop grinning or laughing and nodding in agreement.  This book is an absolute delight to read aloud.  Trust me when I say, it will be a favorite by readers and listeners alike.  At the close of the book a page is dedicated to A Note from Some Brains.  They talk about it being perfectly all right to not know everything.  To them and all of us who don't know everything, finding out answers is what makes life so much fun.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Laurie Keller and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Laurie Keller has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can download a four page storytime kit.  At Travis Jonker's 100 Scope Notes, he hosts Instagramming an Author Visit: Laurie Keller!

Laurie Keller Presents WAKE ME UP IN 20 COCONUTS from LB School on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Chilly Jeweled Treasures

In the midst of winter, snow, wind, and cold can work to create breathtaking artwork.  Last year as I was wandering from beach to beach along Lake Michigan and noting the work of this trio, another admirer asked if I had seen the blue ice at a nearby beach.  I had not.

I believed most of the rare blue ice was to be found along the Lake Michigan shoreline closer to the Mackinac Bridge, but this blue ice was along the shore at the west end of Lake Charlevoix. (Blue ice forms when a combination of clear water, dense ice, and sunlight work together.)  As I pulled into the vacant parking lot and looked across the snow at the lake, I gasped.  Fortunately, the sun was shining and it heightened this spectacular natural wonder.  

One of my favorite authors was also intrigued by the formation of ice when observing the pictures taken by a friend.  When this woman's curiosity is awakened, we can expect an outstanding title to follow.   Ice Cycle: Poems about the Life of Ice (Millbrook Press, October 4, 2022) written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Jieting Chen is a collection of informative original verses enhanced by equally informative and transformative images.  You might want to bundle up as you step into the pages of this brisk book.

Ice Is Born
From freezing water,
Bonds settle into order.

Shapes unfold
Temperature and vapor mold.

Lattice facets
Crystals form habits.

This first of eleven poems introduces us to the creation of ice.  We are also privy to familiar and, perhaps, unfamiliar words used in the context of ice.  It is beginning, too.

The next poem talks about frost before we read about how water freezes on wood, plants, and in soil to fashion hair, flowers, and spikes.  We are intrigued by the range of movements ice makes.  We listen as its sounds fill the frigid air.

Have you ever heard of the word frazil?  This is another beginning on the surface of water, salt and freshwater places.  Ice shapes are given names like hummock and bummock.  If you think the word floe acts alone, you'll be amazed at learning about its partners.

When certain animals are born it is called calving, but this word is used, too, when ice breaks from a larger portion of ice.  Names are also assigned to ice as it grows older, whether it melts or survives melting.  Ice's life finishes and starts with the rising and falling of temperatures.  It is a circle to be savored.

That we are factually informed through poetry is evidence of the talent of author Maria Gianferrari.  She starts and finishes the text with the same three words.  In between those three words, short phrases, rhyming words, alliteration, carefully chosen descriptive adjectives and verbs, and terms relative to ice wrap us in a world of water, wind, and bitter temperatures.  Maria Gianferrari takes us on a journey from the smallest forms of ice to towering giants and landscapes farther than our eyes can see.  Here is a passage.  It is the first part of the poem Ice Plays.

Icicles shine,
Drip and drop.

Ice spikes launch,
Stick and prick.

Cat ice whorls
Swirl and twirl.

Brinicles sink,
Plume and bloom.

Upon opening the matching dust jacket and book case, readers are treated to a single image spanning left to right over the spine.  The color palette definitely depicts a frozen atmosphere.  To the far left of the spine is a large glacier and sheets of ice.  The sheets of ice reach like fingers into the icy blue water.  This takes our eyes to the right side with the clever display of title text shaped like an iceberg.  

These images by artist Jieting Chen

were created with Photoshop.

On the title page a small figure dressed in red stands on a snowy piece of land jutting into the turquoise water.  Rising above the water are enormous mountains of ice.  With a page turn labeled forms of ice,  geometrically framed, stretch from the verso page to the first poem.  

Each page turn is a beautiful surprise.  Jieting Chen varies her perspectives, sometimes within the same illustration.  We might be close to the kind of ice forms featured, or given a wider, more vast viewpoint.  Sometimes to indicate the size of the ice forms, a person or water vessel is placed within the visual.

Smaller labeled pictures are shown in a column off to one side of two pages, or they might be the main highlight as in the poem, Sea Ice Sprouts.  Light and shadow indicate the time of day.  Added details portray sound and movement.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It is as if we are standing in an open window on the second floor of a building.  The window opens like a French door.  The panes on the left and right sides are etched with frosty designs.  The tree branches are spiked with delicate spines of ice.  Below in the snow, two children play.  Their forms cast shadows on the snow.  Are they starting to make a snowman or gathering snowballs for a toss and catch?

From the first page to the last page, Ice Cycle: Poems about the Life of Ice written by Maria Gianferrari with artwork by Jieting Chen is captivating.  There is extensive back matter.  The first page is titled Ice Is Nice!  This gives us some basic information.  The next page is dedicated to Freshwater Ice Formations.  Here terminology is thoroughly explained.  This is followed by two pages with words defined relative to Sea Ice and Ice on Land.  There is a short section titled Time to Experiment:  Make Ice Spikes!  At the close under Further Information is a list of books, websites and online articles, photos and videos and sounds of sea and lake ice.  I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections.  Use this title as an informational read aloud or as an introductory title for a unit on ice, winter or cold climates.

To learn more about Maria Gianferrari and Jieting Chen and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  At Maria Gianferrari's website she has an activities and resources page for her books.  There are some great ideas for this title.  Maria Gianferrari has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Jieting Chen has an account on Instagram.  This book is featured at author Tara Lazar's site, Writing For Kids (While Raising Them) and at Maria Marshall's site.  At the publisher's website, you can read an excerpt and view interior images.

Maria Gianferrari thinks ice is nice.  After seeing editor Carol Hinz's feathery frost photos on Instagram, she was inspired to find out more.  During her research, Maria was amazed by all the diverse kinds of ice that exist, and this book was born.  Her favorite form is pancake ice.  Maria lives in Massachusetts with her family, where winters usually bring ice and snow.