Quote of the Month

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




Monday, July 4, 2022

A Stray . . . Changed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


Using 

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUY BUY BUY
BUY BUY BUY.

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

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


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

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

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

Thursday, June 30, 2022

How Does It Grow

When your childhood is spent with gardeners, it is easy to become a gardener yourself.  You find yourself scanning perennial, annual, and seed catalogs in the winter.  You plot out your gardens.  You dig, rake, hoe, and plant.  They know you by name at the local nurseries.  You wait, watch, weed, and water, working in partnership with the weather.  After decades, you still marvel at the yield.  You are astonished at the colors and smells of the flowers. You savor the scents and tastes of the vegetables and herbs.

As a gardener, it is easy to believe in miracles because even though you work hard, the results are a beautiful, sometimes unexpected, bounty.  Uncle John's City Garden (Holiday House, May 3, 2022) written by Bernette G. Ford with illustrations by Frank Morrison celebrates the connections created between gardens, family, and food.  This book is based upon truth and wishes.

Everyone called me Li'l Sissy.

She was smaller than her older sister and her older brother.  They were individually shorter than their Uncle John, but if they stretched themselves out head to toe, they were taller than this giant of a man.  This story started with nothing but dirt.  A great area of dirt between tall brick city buildings called the projects.

Each of the siblings picked their own packets of seeds.  Each of the children were assigned their own rows for planting, labeled by their Uncle John.  There were rows for okra, tomatoes, onions, corn, and lima beans.  Uncle John had the rest of the rows.  

Li'l Sissy had a small shovel.  Her sister had a bigger shovel and her brother's shovel was the biggest of the three.  Uncle John made hills with his long-handled shovel and the children dug holes for their seeds in those hills.

Day by day the plants grew, were watered and weeded.  One day a huge thunderstorm raged.  Would the garden survive? It did and the vegetables seemed to have grown overnight.  Each day the children and their uncle harvested their vegetables.  A huge family barbeque showcased the garden treasures.  What do you think happened to all the rest of the vegetables?


As stated in her author's note, Bernette G. Ford based this narrative on visiting her Uncle John's urban garden in Brooklyn, New York during her summers.  This book answers her dream of spending an entire summer working in her uncle's garden.  Readers will appreciate the rhythm established by Bernette G. Ford using the technique of comparing the siblings by height, the seeds they select, the number of rows they plant, the size of their shovel handles, and the size of the garden plants.  As these comparisons unfold, it's almost like they mirror the growth of the garden, inch by inch, and foot by foot.  Here is a passage.

Uncle John showed us how to pick our crops.
He gave us bags to put our vegetables in.  Brother
had a big one for his corn and lima beans.  Sister's
bag was not as big as his.  My bag was little, like me.
We picked a lot of vegetables.  But every day when
we came back, the garden had grown some more.


For gardeners and those who enjoy the "fruits of gardeners' labors", the front, right side, of the matching dust jacket and book case is a sight to behold.  All those vegetables are radiating from the siblings and their uncle like the rays of sun are around Li'l Sissy.  The buildings behind them indicate the urban setting of this remarkable garden.  It is also here we are aware that Li'l Sissy will be the narrator of this story.  

To the left of the spine, on the back, set in a canvas of the rustic red color of the tomatoes is an oval image.  It is taken from the interior of the book.  It is a portion of the picture when Li'l Sissy and her mother are inspecting her okra plants.

The opening and closing endpapers are a rich garden green.  On the title page is a double-page picture of sky, buildings and rows of okra.  We are brought close to the seed packet label with the plants, building and sky as part of the background.  On the publication information page and dedication page, a child is skipping rope on the patch of dirt between the buildings.

Each of the two-page images (and two single-page pictures) by artist Frank Morrison were

created with oil paint and spray paint on illustration board.

There is a strength in the portrayals of all his characters, especially in their faces.  Sometimes Frank Morrison brings us close to a scene or gives us a more panoramic view as when the siblings first visit the garden between the buildings.  The children, even the child passing on a homemade scooter, are small compared to the land spread before them.  He brings us close to the children and their Uncle John several times.  During the storm Li'l Sissy's fear for the garden is depicted realistically as she looks out a window.  Her joy at holding a tomato with two hands because of its size will warm you from the top of your head to the tip of your toes.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  We are very close to Li'l Sissy, her brother and sister and their Uncle John.  They have just completed the planting of all their seeds.  Uncle John stands behind the children as if enveloping them in a hug.  We see a portion of his face and upper body.  On the left is the brother and on the right is the sister.  Li'l Sissy is in the middle.  Her figure, because she is shorter, only shows the upper portion of her face.  She is wearing her huge straw hat.  Her face is to the left of the gutter but the hat spans on either side of the gutter.  They are all looking toward their accomplishment in anticipation.

This title, Uncle John's City Garden written by Bernette G. Ford with artwork by Frank Morrison, is an ode to a childhood memory and the act of gardening to grow your own food.  It certainly will inspire others to do the same thing.  At the close of the book is a recipe for succotash.  I highly recommend you place a copy of this book on both your personal and professional bookshelves.

To learn more about Bernette G. Ford and her work, you might want to read this article in The Horn Book where she and her husband were interviewed by Roger Sutton two years ago.  One year ago an obituary for Bernette G. Ford was written for Publishers Weekly.  It speaks about her many accomplishments.  To learn more about Frank Morrison and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  Frank Morrison has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website, you can download some activity sheets found in an event kit. 




For many gardeners, their creativity has more than one outlet, but they still desire to add color to their world through the planting of flowers.  Celia Planted A Garden: The Story Of Celia Thaxter And Her Island Garden (Candlewick Press, May 17, 2022) written by Phyllis Root and Gary D. Schmidt with illustrations by Melissa Sweet highlights the life of writer, painter, and gardener Celia Thaxter.  Her passion for the sea, her island homes, her gardens, and the natural world are beautifully showcased.

When Celia Laighton was very young, she lived on White Island, where the rocks were gray and white, and the waves that broke on the rocks were gray and white, and the seagulls that rode the sea were gray and white.

Celia planted marigolds among those rocks in the spring and observed the native plants in the summer.  In the autumn, she watched a variety of birds leave to fly south for the winter.  Sometimes at night she could see them flying in the beam of the lighthouse light.  In the harsh winters, Celia, her  two brothers, and parents survived some terrible storms.  In the spring Celia planted again.

At the age of twelve, Celia and her family moved to the island of Appledore, near White Island.  There her father built a hotel.  Celia planted a garden.  She gathered rain water to keep the plants healthy.  Celia was constantly at work in either her garden or at the hotel.  When she got older, Celia met and married Levi Thaxter.  He did not like Appledore Island.  They set up residence on the mainland.

Celia missed her islands, even their winters.  She missed her garden.  To fill her sadness, Celia wrote about the sea and her gardens.  They were published and received by those who longed for the sea and island life.  Celia filled her indoor space with flowers and grew many from seeds.  She began to paint about the sea, her islands, and flowers.

In the spring after winters on the mainland, Celia would sail to Appledore Island taking flowers with her and expanding her garden.  Birds loved her gardens (and the inside of her home).  One day a harsh summer storm pelted freezing rains on Appledore Island.  What Celia found the next day and what eventually happened is a testament to Celia and her garden.  Miracle?


The devotion Celia Thaxter had for the sea, her island homes, her gardens, and birds grows inside readers with every word written by authors Phyllis Root and Gary D. Schmidt.  Each revelation about the life of Celia Thaxter unfolds like the blossoms she loved so well.  The names of flowers and birds she adored are woven into the narrative.

As the seasons of the year and of Celia's life pass, we are presented with specific events to mark each one.  There is a repetition of certain words and phrases fashioning a rhythm.  We come to understand that these rhythms are kin to the rhythms of the seasons and they are the rhythms of Celiz Thaxter's life and her work.  Here is a passage.

Still, Celia planted a bigger garden than before, even though she had so much to do 
at the new hotel.  Artists and writers were coming to stay, and each summer day she
greeted the new guests and went out to plant.  She served in the hotel's dining room
and went out to weed.  She made up the guests' beds and went out to clip blossoms
for the vases on their dressers.

And on that rocky and waterless island, Celia's garden bloomed gloriously.


The highly intricate signature artwork of Melissa Sweet is evident on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  Her blend of complementary hues and layers invites us to step into Celia Thaxter's world.  On the front, right side, she frames Celia at work in her island garden with intimate views of her flowers.  The presence of a hummingbird is a hint of wonder to come in this astonishing woman's life.  To the left of the spine, on the back, on the palest of peach backgrounds (almost cream) are two vignettes separated by clipping shears and a cut flower.  These images are paired with the above-noted words in the interior of the book.  The artwork on the left is of Celia chatting with a guest in her garden as other visitors at the hotel are silhouetted behind them.  On the right are a collection of vases in white and black filled with colorful flowers.

On the opening endpapers is an outline, a plan, fifty feet by fifteen feet of a garden.  It is drawn as if we are looking down at the garden.  On the closing endpapers, in a collage of memorabilia and artwork, is a postcard or photograph of Appledore, Isles Of Shoals.

At the first page turn after the opening endpapers on the left are two maps.  One in the left-hand corner shows the position of the Isles of Shoals in relation to New Hampshire and Maine.  The larger map shows the Isles of Shoals.  Vivid strips indicate the two islands where Celia planted gardens.  The islands are labeled and readers can see how some of the islands belong to New Hampshire and others are a part of Maine.  On the title page is a postcard with a seagull filling most of the space.  To the left of the card are a set of watercolors and a paintbrush.

Melissa Sweet rendered these images

in watercolor, gouache, and mixed media.

They are a mix of two-page pictures, single-page pictures and pictures within pictures.  Columns are made within these illustrations.  In the columns are quotations by Celia Thaxter relevant to the narrative.  For every two pages, there is a quote with two exceptions.  Two single pages each have a quote and the following two pages have none.  All of these eloquent visuals bring us deeply into the story, not as observers but as if we were there.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page visual.  On the left side we see a portion of the lighthouse where Celia's father initially worked on White Island.  The windows are glowing.  It is so cold outside that Celia and her brothers breathe on pennies and place them on the frozen windows so they can see outside.  On the right, Melissa Sweet has displayed a dark, angry and icy sea with howling winds.  Embedded in the waves are the words:

The sea is black and white
as death, with horrible long
billows that break and roar
aloud.


In a word, Celia Planted A Garden: The Story of Celia Thaxter And Her Island Garden written by Phyllis Root and Gary D. Schmidt with artwork by Melissa Sweet, is fascinating, especially when the time in which it took place is considered.  At the close of the book are two pages titled A Note On Celia Laighton Thaxter.  These are followed by two pages of a detailed timeline with forty-seven significant years.  There is an extensive one and one-half page bibliography.  I highly recommend this title for both your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Phyllis Root and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  She has an account on Facebook.  You can find out more about Gary D. Schmidt at these two links, his Calvin University page and an article in the university's publication, Spark.  By following the link attached to Melissa Sweet's name, you can access her website.  There you can learn about her work.  She has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  At the publisher's website, you can download a four-page teacher's guide.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

To The Dogs #1

For those sharing their lives with beings other than humans, each one has a preference with particular reasons attached to that preference.  This reader has a fondness for dogs.  Four Labrador Retrievers have been members of my family, sisters, Soot and Cinder, sweet Xena, and my wild child cuddlebug, Mulan.   For this reason one saying I hold close to my heart is

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.

Roger Caras

Any title referencing dogs has my attention.

Whatever it is, when you begin and end with a dog, expect the extraordinary.  I'd Like To Be The Window For A Wise Old Dog (Doubleday Books For Young Readers, April 5, 2022) written and illustrated by Philip Stead is a place to let your imagination spread as far as it will go.  It's also a reminder to be more observant of the details you might miss at first glance. 

Oh, I'd like to be
the raindrop
falling on a turtle shell

For the next two page turns, the rain continues.  It makes a puddle for a leaper.  It provides the opportunity for an umbrella, an elephant's umbrella, to supply shelter.  And when the rain ends, at the most perfect moment, it fashions a wonder seen out the window.  A window under which a dog sleeps.

The unseen narrator contemplates the movements of penguins, snails, honeybees, and those of a whale.  They ponder mirroring those motions.  With sure knowledge, this individual returns to wanting to be something which gives to another.

Where will the sunshine fall?  Who will nest in an oak tree hollow?  Who will hide in high green grasses?

We read of feathers and weather.  We read of a hummingbird, mouse, and a quiet cat.  Again, with sure knowledge, our wonderer goes to the window and the dog.  As the window, the voice is filled with the happiness of the dog's thoughts as she gazes through the glass.


No matter how many times the book is read, the sheer beauty of the words carefully penned by Philip Stead surround the reader in a hug of serene speculations.  Each pondering asks us to look and marvel at things we might take for granted instead of viewing them with gratitude.  There is a musicality to the shifts in reflections from wanting to be something, to moving like something, and then to being something again.  Philip Stead uses a bit of rhyming, alliteration, and metaphor.  Here is another thought.

I'd like to be
the tall grass
standing with a mother deer
helping hide the little fawns

one     two     three


White is used masterfully by Philip Stead to elevate his full-color artwork throughout the book as first evidenced on the dust jacket.  On the front, elements found in other illustrations are a part of this initial illustration.  The blend of rain and the rainbow, the red ball and red bird, the blue and yellow coneflowers, and the wise old dog hint at continuity which can be comforting.  To the left of the spine, on the white canvas is a mouse carrying an acorn.  The mouse is flying with delicate angel wings.  Beneath the mouse are the words:

And I sometimes wonder . . .

The book case is white and covered on both sides with raindrops.  The raindrops are in the colors found in a rainbow.  The opening and closing endpapers are the same shade of red as the bird and ball.

The first interior picture is of the window.  It is raining outside.  The red bird is singing in a tree with ginkgo-shaped leaves.  The dog, her back to us, is staring out the window.  Next to her is the red ball with a mouse seated on top of it.  The next page turn we zoom to the bird singing in the rain.  The background is blue with white drops, green leaves, brown branches, and the bright bird.  On the title page, the dog now has the ball in her mouth.  The mouse is running across the verso.

For his phrases, Philip Stead uses double-page pictures.  His printmaking is exquisite with subtle shading and fine details.  Before a final phrase or an alteration in phrases, words spread across two pages with no other artwork.  The color of the letters is a hint of what is to come.  As the narrative continues, figures from previous illustrations join other members culminating in a heartwarming array.  Readers will pause at page turns to locate all the creatures.  You will notice other smaller stories embedded in the artwork like the turtle and mouse moving the red ball to its final resting place.

One of my many favorite illustrations is of the elephant holding the umbrella in the rain.  The background is white with blue raindrops.  The elephant is facing to the left with the front portion of its body to the left of the gutter.  Underneath the elephant's body it is white as light blue water puddles around it.  Under the elephant's belly, eight tiny yellow birds are seeking shelter.  Underneath the green umbrella in the elephant's trunk are two more yellow birds.  Two other yellow birds are flying to the right near the elephant's trunk and head.  There is something exceedingly soothing about this scene. 


On the verso, the dedication by Philip Stead reads:

For Wednesday most of all

As previously stated when something begins and ends with a dog, it will be out of the ordinary.  I'd Like To Be The Window For A Wise Old Dog written and illustrated by Philip Stead is indeed remarkable.  It is one eloquent moment followed by another equally eloquent moment.  It is uplifting.  It is hopeful.  It is a tribute to life.  You will want a copy for both your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Philip Stead and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Philip Stead shares a website with his wife titled The Stead Collection.  They share an Instagram account, too.  At the publisher's website, you can view the first few pages of this title.  You can view more artwork from this book at R. Michelson Galleries. Philip and his wife, Erin, and Kevin Henkes and his wife, Laura Dronzek, were part of a virtual event on Friday, June 24, 2022.  The four talk about their newest books.  You can view this event hosted by Books of Wonder here.




Of the many things attributed to dogs, one of the most endearing is their ability to make us laugh.  Their body language, facial expressions, and antics are a constant source of joy.  They welcome every moment of every day.  In Bug On The Rug (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2022) written by Sophia Gholz with illustrations by Susan Batori, a pup's beloved rug becomes an object of controversy and comedy.

Pug on a rug,
cozy and snug.

He's a rug-loving pug.
When along comes . . .

It's a bug!  This bug is looking a tad bit too proud of his position on that rug.  He has set up residence on Pug's rug.  

Growling and buzzing ensues.  Then Bug throws a stick, which Pug sets off to retrieve.  Pug arrives back at his rug mad at that bug.

Pug grabs the rug and a tussle begins, until the duo crash into none other than Slug.  Slug in not happy about being sandwiched between a fighting pug and bug.  Slug says they are being selfish and rude.  

Pug and Bug are filled with guilt.  Sobbing Bug tells the tale of how he lost his home.  Pug tearfully realizes the mistake he made.  When Bug decides to leave, Slug makes a suggestion.  The trio are enjoying the rug until . . .


With a keen sense of humor, author Sophia Gholz invites us into rhyming rhythmic fun-filled fiction.  Her selection of words used to create this tale are delightful, true, and never forced but flowing.  She shows readers how discord can be turned into harmony.  Here is another passage.

Pug growls and howls.
Bug buzzes and scowls.

He might be small,
but Bug stands tall.


The open and matching dust jacket and book case give us a clear glimpse of the funny and frantic mischief-making about to happen between Pug and Bug.  The characters in this tale all have wide-eyed expressions with exaggerated body characteristics, either small or large.  On the dust jacket the image extends from flap edge to flap edge.  On the right flap we are introduced to Slug who is looking surprised to see Bug on Pug's rug.  Pug's body extends over the spine to the middle of the left side.  There, a worm is looking cautiously at the happenings on the rug.

The opening endpapers include the publication information on the left and the title page on the right.  There Bug has set up his new home on the rug.  On the closing endpapers is the hilarious wordless conclusion.  The looks on the characters' faces are totally laughable.

The illustrations by Susan Batori alternate between double-page pictures and full-page images.  Her perspectives in these visuals shift from wide to close enhancing the pacing of the story.  Humor is infused in every line of these highly-animated illustrations.

Readers will appreciate the added elements.  When Bug builds his home on the rug, there is a Welcome mat outside his tent.  He is drinking from a red and white polka-dotted cup.  On a table next to him the red and white polka-dotted teapot sits.  He has a tall lamp!  Whenever the characters are thinking or remembering, those are shown in clouds above their heads.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  On the sides, local flora is shown.  On the grass is the infamous rug.  Looking off-kilter Pug, Bug, and Slug are on the rug.  They have just slid and crashed into one another.  Bug and Slug are squashed under Pug.  They are dazed and bruised.  This is the beginning of a change in the story.


This title, Bug On The Rug written by Sophia Gholz with artwork by Susan Batori, is read-aloud gold.  Listeners and readers will be finger-snapping and swaying after the first few pages.  The humorous phrases forming a story of sharing and friendship will remain with readers long after the book is closed.  Your personal and professional shelves need to house a copy of this book.

To learn more about Sophia Gholz and Susan Batori and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Sophia Gholz has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Susan Batori has accounts on Behance, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  The book trailer premiered along with an author interview at Watch. Connect. Read., the blog of librarian and writer John Schu.  There are more author and illustrator interviews about this book at Kathleen Temean's Writing and Illustrating and at Good Reads With Ronna.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Seeking To Understand And Spread Understanding

It was more than fifty years ago.  The year was 1969.  It was a gift to me from my mother's best lifelong friend.  It went with me wherever I went for forty-five years until it was destroyed in a flooded basement library.  Today a new copy of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran is part of my poetry collection.  It was and still is unlike anything I have read.

Kahlil Gibran was forty years old when The Prophet was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1923.  In Hope Is an Arrow: The Story of Lebanese American Poet Kahlil Gibran (Candlewick Press, July 5, 2022) written by Cory McCarthy with illustrations by Ekua Holmes, readers are transported into other times and places.  Through a melodic narrative with stunning complementary artwork, we are introduced to a man's journey through two worlds, the disparities in each of them, and how he sought to affect change through his art and writing.

There once was a boy shot from a bow like an arrow.
Strong and straight, he flew across the world, connecting
many people with the power of his words.
But not right away.

Kahlil loved the country of his birth, Lebanon, but the religious strife between the Maronite and the Druze was heartbreaking to him.  He sought solitude in the forest of cedar trees.  In that silence, he felt something grow inside him.

At one point in his youth, he fell off a cliff in the woods, breaking his shoulder.  Wearing a wooden cross placed on his back by his parents, he quietly healed.  Later, Kahlil's family lost everything and his father was placed in prison.  His mother, two sisters, older brother, and Kahlil left for America.

In Boston, Kahlil attended a school for immigrants.  His name was shortened from Gibran Kahlil Gibran to Kahlil Gibran.  His mother worked carrying 

linens and lace

on her back, peddling her yard goods. She saved enough money to open a small store.  While Kahlil felt honor toward his mother for her work, others belittled her.   Here in America, Kahlil saw the strife between the rich and the poor.

Kahlil began to use his ability to draw to fuel his hope for mending differences.  His teachers noticed his skills, referring him to a photographer named Fred Holland Day.  Day became a mentor, patron, and friend.  Kahlil's drawings garnered him recognition through the sale of some as covers for books.  His mother was concerned with this early success and sent Kahlil back to Lebanon to study.

Kahlil flourished in his education, but longed for his life to take a different direction.  He went back to Boston to write his words of hope, but there he found great sadness in the loss of his older sister, brother, and mother.  Moving to New York City, Kahlil Gibran wrote and drew and wrote and drew.  He wrote for all people of the world to build bridges, bridges of hope across their differences.  His words rang true then, and still ring true today.


Each time this book is read, the words penned by Cory McCarthy vibrate beautifully on your heartstrings.  Her references throughout the narrative to arrows and their flight after being released from a bow bind significant portions of this man's life together.  She, Cory McCarthy, also weaves the word hope splendidly into the text as Kahlil harbors his desire to spread it to the world.  The nine inserted quotations pair eloquently with the portions in which they are located.  Here is a passage.

Now when he looked in the mirror, he saw two boys: Kahlil Gibran, the Arab American, and Gibran Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese boy who missed his father and the snowy mountains of home.

"Deep is your longing for the land of your memories." 


Rendered 

in collage and acrylic on paper, 

the illustrations of Ekua Holmes will literally take your breath away.  The image on the front, right side, of the matching dust jacket and book case is similar to part of an interior illustration.  The perspective and color palette vividly portray the peace Kahlil Gibran felt among the cedar tees.  

To the left of the spine, on the back, a delicate floral print in shades of golden yellow and brown with spots of sky blue, cover the entire canvas. Perhaps, this represents the fabric Kahlil's mother might have sold in Boston.  The opening and closing endpapers are a golden yellow. 

On the title page, along the top and bottom are wide borders taken from the picture on the front of the jacket and case.  In the center of the page is a single golden leaf surrounded by four small golden circles.  This leaf could be a feather, a feather in an arrow.  Or maybe it is hope.

The pictures are either single-page images, or dramatic double-page visuals.  The manner in which the text is placed on all of them enhances the pacing.  The illustrations are breathtaking individually, but flow to the following pictures perfectly.  You find yourself repeatedly stopping first to look at the illustration as a whole, then to notice the layout and design, and finally to appreciate all the elements working together.  In a word, they are luminous.

One of my many favorite pictures is a double-page picture.  It is for the text:

His family lived in a crowded place called the South
End, where a hundred immigrant children from all over the
world often played in a single alley together like a flock of
swooping birds.

The alley is featured prominently in the center portion to the left of the gutter.  It is framed on the left side with a collage of buildings in various shades of brown and brick red.  Some blue is featured in a window.  There is a single tree in the alley.  Beneath the branches is the sun.  Above the branches in the clear blue sky are eight white birds in flight.  Over the alley hangs laundry.  To the right of the alley, on both sides of the gutter are the brick walls of other buildings with windows holding blue, gray, and green panes.  Most of the right side is a brick wall.  In this wall is a window with a lace curtain valance and flowers on the sill.  The text is placed in a faded portion of the brick.  Beautiful.


I cannot imagine a personal or professional collection without a copy of Hope Is an Arrow: The Story Of Lebanese American Poet Kahlil Gibran written by Cory McCarthy with artwork by Ekua Holmes.  It is a marvelous depiction of a life well-lived.  It is an inspiration to all who read it.  At the close of the book are three pages of Source Notes And Additional Stories From Kahlil Gibran's Life.  Included in this are notes on the quotations.  There is also a bibliography.

To discover more about Cory McCarthy and Ekua Holmes and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Cory McCarthy has an account on Instagram.  Ekua Holmes has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  At the publisher's website, there is a teacher's guide you can download.  At Penguin Random House, there are interior images to view.  

Cory McCarthy discusses HOPE IS AN ARROW from Candlewick Press on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Celebrating Gifts

Each being shares traits with other beings.  Some of those characteristics are broad, others are more particular.  No matter your age, you know this to be true.  We, too, are drawn to those who share common interests.  This is how connections, bonds, and friendships are formed.

It is only as those connections, bonds, and friendships grow that acknowledgements and adjustments are made.  Something Beautiful (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, June 7, 2022) written and illustrated by Lita Judge explores how individuals embrace each other initially because of shared pursuits.  As their circle of friends expands, something wondrous happens.

Ball was Mouse's favorite
and with it, he played alone. 

Elephant arrived, wanting to play with Mouse and Ball.  Together they had fabulous fun.  A trio of pals formed when Giraffe appeared.  Their interests were in perfect sync.  

They didn't think anyone else was necessary to increase their joy. Soon, a prickly critter called out a greeting.  Mouse, Elephant, and Giraffe were hesitant to welcome Porcupine.  His idea of playing and snacking were weird.

Porcupine opened up a whole new view of the world for the other three animals when teaching them how to climb trees.  What could possibly be better than this?  Joy and the power of imagination burst over the foursome when Warthog danced beneath the tree.

She was everything they could possibly want until the running group unexpectedly bumped into Lion.  Lion was sitting alone.  He did not want to play when invited to join the group, so they sat with him.  In those moments, Mouse, Elephant, Giraffe, Porcupine, and Warthog understood the value of stillness and what it could reveal.  Six friends in their time together did find another truth, the most priceless truth of all.


From the first simple sentence, Lita Judge invites us into the story.  We realize because alone is the final word in that sentence, Mouse will have company soon.  With a page turn and another single sentence, Elephant is introduced.  When each new animal makes an appearance, Lita Judge provides us with a few additional details.  These details not only give us hints into the personalities of Elephant, Giraffe, Porcupine, Warthog, and Lion, but enlarge our view of the blossoming friendships and the definition of beautiful.  Here are three consecutive sentences.

Warthog has a heart full of sunshine
and a head full of dreams.

Together, they discovered that flowers
were magic wands in disguise

and that ears can be
turned into wings.

Mouse, Elephant, Giraffe, Porcupine and Warthog
needed no one else

but then . . .


In looking at the open and matching dust jacket and book case, the first thing readers notice is the endearing trio.  Their facial expressions have us wondering what each of them are thinking.  The presence of Ball and the blue butterflies are full of promise.  To the left of the spine, we are treated to text praising two previous titles, Flight School and Red Sled, both written and illustrated by Lita Judge.  In the lower left-hand portion of the back, Porcupine does a little jig, leaves stuck to his quills.  Several blue butterflies flutter nearby.  Ball is above Porcupine.  What will happen when gravity takes over?  On the dust jacket the title text is embossed in a stunning blue hue.  Lita Judge's name, the butterflies and Ball are varnished.

A vivid robin's egg blue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  With a page turn, we see Mouse scampering toward the lower right-hand corner of the right page.  On the formal title page, Mouse stands next to Ball.

One of the things in Lita Judge's artwork is her masterful use of white space.  It frames her characters.  It seems to hug them and lift them up.

Using 

watercolor and digital editing,

these images depict energetic playfulness, joyous abandonment, calm contentment and curiosity, gracious acceptance, and pure wonderment.  Readers will delight at the details, the settings, and the looks on each of the characters' faces.  As you turn the pages, you find yourself continuously smiling and even laughing out loud. (You will also find yourself looking more intently at the pictures.  Doesn't that knot in the tree look like Warthog's belly?)

One of my many favorite pictures is a single-page illustration.  A large oval with softened edges is surrounded by white space.  Near a tree is Porcupine.  Leaves are stuck to his quills.  Ball is stuck on top of his head.  He is gnawing on his favorite snack, a gnarly twig.  Mouse is trying it, but says (outside the frame)

Patooey!


We need to embody the sincere wisdom found in the words and artwork in Something Beautiful written and illustrated by Lita Judge.  The openness of the animals and their willingness to accept differences leads to exquisite joy and the ultimate revelation.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Lita Judge and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Lita Judge has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images including the full, open dust jacket.

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Lifting Each Other Up

Tuesday morning an article said the first of twenty-one funerals began on that date, May 31, 2022.  There will be twenty-one celebrations of life and mourning, and the worlds of those families and friends are changed forever.  On May 24, 2022 the shock of another school shooting reverberated through a community, a state, a nation, and around the world.  For parents, caregivers, and educators the weight of this latest horrific tragedy is very heavy.  The more we know about the events of that day, the more heartbreaking it becomes.  We seek to make sense, when it does not make sense.  We seek security, solace, and serenity.

My friend and colleague, John Schu, recently released a book titled The Gift of Story: Exploring the Affective Side of the Reading Life (Stenhouse Publishers, May 3, 2022).  In chapter two we learn about Story as Healer.  At the close of this chapter, John suggests books in support of the chapter's premises.  After a brief description of each title, John offers commentary about his choices.  I have gone back to this section and read two sentences in particular over and over this past week.  John says:

This story is about grief, how it can weigh us down, but how, over time, our friends can help share the burden and in the process make it smaller.

It's not dread and worry that sustain us, but rather the love we share and the memories we create that will last.

Keeping these two sentences in my mind and heart, I selected six new titles from my bins of new releases.  Previously, author Pat Zietlow Miller and author illustrator Eliza Wheeler have collaborated on two wonderful books, Wherever You Go and When You Are Brave.  Their third title, When I'm With You (Little, Brown And Company, March 1, 2022), declares, reaffirms, and pays tribute to those individuals who make us whole.

There's something that I've noticed.
Perhaps you've seen it, too . . .

Life is so much better
when it's me and you.

Sometimes it seems as though you've always had that one special companion.  Other times, you realize your relationship has grown like a well-nourished seed.  You complement each other wherever you go and whatever you do.

You see a brighter future from sharing it with this being.  You might be opposites, but together you make something beautiful.  What you need, when you need it, is provided by this forever friend.

There will be moments when things go awry, but you and this partner support each other.  You work through the less than ideal situations.  The sad and bad are not as sad and bad.

Whether you explore the new or repeat a previous adventure, it is best when experienced with a perfect pal. When you are older, nothing will change despite distance and time because nothing without this soul has reason or rhyme.  Nothing will ever separate these two.


Each time the rhyming lines in this narrative are read, the warmth of the words written by Pat Zietlow Miller wrap around you.  Her four-line lyrical observations, double couplets, speak of building bonds using two parts to an array of relationships.  She speaks of commitment, creativity, comfort, laughter, sadness, mistakes, and mending.  One abiding current threads through the entire book.  It is the word constant.  Here is a passage.

You're the hat that fits my head.
You're the hilltop for my sled.

When I sneeze,
you say, "Ah-CHOO!"
And that makes me
laugh with you.


The open and matching dust jacket and book case introduce readers to the four groups of best friends featured throughout the book.  On the front they are all enjoying the delights of a sunny day, kite flying, playing in a tree house, swinging, and having a tea party.  The two main children, the kite and string and the title text are varnished on the jacket.  To the left of the spine, on the back, the day is coming to a close.  

The pals in the tree house are sitting on a branch of the tree gazing at a pink and peach sky dotted with pink clouds.  Birds are in the background.  Butterflies flutter in the foreground.  The kite-flying friends are now seated in a hammock, arms around each other's shoulders.  They, too, are facing the setting sun.  The sun is dropping below a body of water.  The children have their backs to readers.

The opening and closing endpapers are charming visions.  They are panoramic pastoral vistas showing the four homes where the children and their families live.  On either side of the gutter are two large trees.  On either side of them are two homes.  Each of the homes are as different as the occupants.  In the background are faint outlines of rolling hills and evergreen forests.  In the foreground is the pond with a stream stretching to the right between two of the homes.

The adults are all engaged in activities as the children play.  On the opening endpapers it is daylight.  On the closing endpapers it is night.  Lights glow in the windows of the homes.  The parents are now inside each house.  A crescent moon and stars decorate the sky.  On the left side, the children (and one canine companion) gather around a crackling fire roasting marshmallows. 

These images by Eliza Wheeler were 

created using ink, watercolors, acrylic paint, wax pastels, and digital collage

On the title page, we see the seven children and the one dog at the trees setting up for a day of wonders.  This is one of many double-page pictures.  Single page illustrations cross the gutter to be joined with smaller visuals on the opposite side.  Eliza Wheeler skillfully combines two separate illustrations into a larger picture.  You will stop at every page turn to absorb all the included details.  Everywhere you look there is joy and a blend of reality and imagined reality.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It shows all the children in a magical underwater scene.  Only the outline of a fish tank in the upper, left-hand corner of the image indicates they are inside a fish tank.  Two friends wearing helmets and their regular clothing are cleaning.  A ray is smiling as it is dusted.  The two tea-party pals are feeding the fish and carrying a huge seaweed cupcake to an octopus.  Two other companions are caring for the underwater flowers and seahorses.  The final child is wearing scuba gear as he explores a treasure chest.  The dog is above him in a personal submarine powered by paw action.


This book, When I'm With You written by Pat Zietlow Miller with artwork by Eliza Wheeler, is an ode to friendship and its power.  It is a lively and lovely invitation to share life with a special individual.  It is a balm for all our souls.  I highly recommend it for both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Pat Zietlow Miller has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Eliza Wheeler has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Pat Zietlow Miller was recently interviewed by Madison Magazine.  Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler chat about this book at PictureBookBuilders.  John Schu, librarian and writer, highlights this title in conversations with Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Pat Zietlow Miller is in conversation with Eliza Wheeler about this title in a previous Crowdcast event.





When your canine companion is considered a sporting dog, regardless of the weather or your state of health, you walk miles every single day.  It is a commitment you must keep.  There are times when the very thought of leaving the cozy comfort of your home is downright daunting, but you go.  Without fail, something wonderful happens.  You see a deer crossing the road in front of you, a group of raptors gliding overhead, countless sunrises in breathtaking colors, and ever-changing cloud formations, and the birdsong is like your own personal symphony.  In Climb On! (North|South, March 8, 2022) written by Baptiste Paul with illustrations by Jacqueline Alcantara, this is exactly what occurs.  

Morning, Dad!

Morning!
It's a great day for
watching futbol.

The child quickly reminds her father of a promise to hike to the summit of a local mountain.  They place essentials in their backpacks and begin their hike.  Dad keeps offering reasons to stop or turn back.

There are too many beautiful things to see to turn back or stop.  His daughter reminds him to climb on.  When she asks him to swing on a vine to take a plunge in a waterfall pond, he takes up the mantra of climb on.

The father is exhausted and wants to know if they are at the top.  They are only midway to the top.  There is a small setback, a slip and fall, but through the leaves they see their multi-colored town below them.

Now tired, the child rides on her father's shoulders as he steadily continues in the heat with muscles aching.  They break through the vegetation.  A single three-letter word describes what they behold before them.  Wonderful.


Through a blend of narrative and conversation, author Baptiste Paul tells the tale of a memorable trek, a day of shared revelations.  Short sentences, sometimes only a series of single words give readers a real sense of participating in this climb.  The inclusion of Creole words in the dialogue between the Dad and his daughter draws us further into their adventure.  Here is a passage.

The rocks weep from yesterday's rain.
Each step slower than the last.

Fe vit.  Hurry up!
     Step.
          Breathe.
               Sweat.


Not only does the front, right side, of the open and matching dust jacket and book case inspire you to climb a mountain, but it invites you to open the book and read the story.  The natural beauty of the area in which the tale is told is reflected in the vivid hues of blue and green with spots of other colors.  You can almost feel the heat and humidity and breathe the salty air.  The green found in the palm leaves is used for the spine and back of the jacket and case.  Here flora and fauna found on the hike are displayed around praise for the previous collaboration by the author and illustrator, The Field

On the opening endpapers is an illustration of a green field.  Houses frame the border on two sides.  On the left side in the foreground, we can see the beginning of the trail to the mountaintop.  In the distance the sea and sky appear as one.  In a word, this is serenity.  On the closing endpapers, the child and her father are back at the waterfall pond.  Together they are swinging on a vine over the water.  It is a lush setting with various shades of green with the waterfall in the background.

These illustrations by Jacqueline Alcantara begin and end with the endpapers.  On the verso and title pages, her pictorial interpretation starts with the daughter, first, studying a map, and second, lifting a hat from her resting father's face.  The images, double-page and single-page, extend to the edges.  Even though opposite single-page pictures are different scenes, they flow together superbly.

Readers will find themselves carefully looking at each image, studying the details.  What flora and fauna are on display?  The facial expressions on the child's face mirror her every emotion.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page visual.  The child is close to readers in the foreground.  She is bending over to study a caterpillar on a cupped, dark green leaf.  In the background, her dad is lying on his back, stretched out over a large boulder.  He is clearly exhausted.  Graceful, red and green leafy vines act as a partial border on either side.


There will be times when you would rather not keep a promise or a commitment, but in honoring it, positive discoveries will be made.  Climb On! written by Baptiste Paul with artwork by Jacqueline Alcantara clearly depicts this truth.  Natural world wonders heal.  You will want to have a copy of this title in both your professional and personal collections. (There is a surprise challenge tucked into the closing endpapers.)

To learn more about Baptiste Paul and Jacqueline Alcantara and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Baptiste Paul has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Jacqueline Alcantara has accounts on Facebook, BehanceInstagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view the first few pages and download resources.  At Simon & Schuster, you can see other interior illustrations.  The cover reveal was hosted at School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production by Betsy Bird.  Both the author and illustrator are interviewed about this book at We Need Diverse Books.




Unconditional love is powerful.  It is always present, like a heartbeat that does not stop.  How do we know if we are loved unconditionally?  We know in ordinary and extraordinary moments, some lasting seconds and others lasting years. Author Andrea Beaty and illustrator Vashti Harrison have created a heartwarming portrait in poetic phrases and tender lively artwork of this love in their new collaboration, I Love You Like Yellow (Abrams Books for Young Readers, March 29, 2022).

I love you like yellow.

I love you like green.

Like a flowery orchid

and sweet tangerine.

These three sentences begin a sensory expression of love.  Opposites, too, are used to show the extent of this love.  This love happens in times of jubilance and in times of sorrow.

If you could taste this love, it would be like sugar and dill pickles.  It is there when time pauses or speeds, even when the recipient of this love is slow when they wish to be fast.  Whatever the weather, rain or sunshine, hot or cold, the love is still there.

This love is present in daylight and beneath the stars at night.  Like those stars, it is there, always.  From the beginning of the day and until the end of the day, this love is ever constant.

During each moment of the day, at work or at play, you are loved.  You are a song.  You are silence.  When you are nestled in your bed, more asleep than awake, you will be embraced by love.


Whether the sentences written by Andrea Beaty are read silently or aloud, they are like singing a song.  The rhyming words (and use of alliteration) fashion a melody.  You find yourself humming, quietly or aloud.  These words remind us of the vastness and universality of love.  Here is a passage.

Like brisk and breezy.

Like bouncy and bold.


After looking at the open dust jacket, I think I need a pair of yellow boots to match my yellow raincoat.  I know I will find as much joy as this parent and child in puddle splashing.  Their spirited play surrounded by the softly-textured setting is definitely welcoming.  The title text and rain gear on the jacket are varnished.

The scene continues across the spine.  The meadow stretches to the left side.  Reddish pink flowers mound in the lower, left-hand corner as a blue butterfly stops for a sip.  Across the grass, there is another bunch of yellow flowers and orange butterflies near them.  Above the misty slopes, a rainbow arcs from the left to off the top of the visual.

On the book case, we have moved to a close-up of the puddle covering both sides.  There is some grass framing the puddle along the bottom and right side.  The parent and child stand still in the puddle, but you can tell by ripple marks they just moved.  All we can see are their boots and a small portion of their legs.  The parent is to the left of the spine and the child is to the right of the spine.  

On a crisp white canvas on the opening and closing endpapers is a pattern of items found within the book.  The elements are a paper airplane, leaves, butterflies, lemons, playing cards, orchids, apples, and yellow umbrellas.  On the initial title page, the parent and child look out a window at the rain.  On the formal title page and dedication page, the mother is putting a raincoat on her child.

For each of the four phrases, a different parent and their child or children are featured.  Using 

colored pencil and Photoshop,

Vashti Harrison has created warmhearted, playful, and highly animated images.  She shifts her perspectives, bringing us close to the families at times and then places them in a more scenic setting.  The illustrations are full-page pictures, groups of smaller visuals, and glorious double-page images.  The families reflect a range of ethnicity and ages.

One of my many favorite pictures is a single-page illustration.  A father has been spending time with his daughter and her younger brother.  They are now baking cookies.  On the kitchen counter in front of them are ingredients and a cookie sheet with some cutout cookies ready for baking.  The father has his hands in a bowl mixing the ingredients.  On his head is a pie tin.  The daughter is laughing with her arms up in the air.  Her brother is seated on the counter.  He, too, has a pan on his head and he is holding a wooden spoon.  There is flour in the air along with the laughter.

The love portrayed through the words of Andrea Beaty and the artwork of Vashti Harrison in I Love You Like Yellow radiates from the pages.  This book is certain to soothe souls of all ages, readers and listeners alike.  There is a lot of happiness to be found here.  No personal or professional collection is complete without a copy of this book.

To learn more about Andrea Beaty and Vashti Harrison and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Andrea Beaty has accounts on FacebookInstagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Vashti Harrison has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.  There is also a video there with Andrea Beaty discussing the inspiration for this title.




We try to measure and keep track of time with watches, phones, clocks, planners, and calendars, but truthfully time has always gone at its own pace, altered only by our perspectives.  It seems to go slow when the only thing we want is for it to speed like a lightning flash.  Then, the older we get, the faster it goes.  We find ourselves frequently thinking, how could so many years have come and gone . . . like a lightning flash.  In their two previous collaborations, Drawn Together and Lift, author Minh Le and author illustrator Dan Santat gave us life's truths by putting their collective hearts into their words and art.  They have done this again, beautifully, in The Blur (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, May 3, 2022).  

From the beginning
there was something different
about this child.

Yes, this child had a shockingly loud voice and limber arms and legs.  She mastered hearing the softest sound.  And, this child could become invisible.  These traits blended to make the most fascinating characteristic of all, magnetism.  People gravitated toward this bundle of superpowers.

As a youngster, the parents could hardly keep up with all the tasks this child presented, except when she slept.  Then time seemed to stop, until she learned to walk.

Wowee!  Look out!  She's always in motion.  Again, moments blended into one another because of 

The Blur.

As years pass at a ferocious pace, the girl embraces every activity with unbridled enthusiasm.  There are mostly high points, the sadness of loss, and some tense-filled seconds for her parents.  Before any of them realize it, time halts again.  It is high school graduation day.  And then, she's off once more.  All those memories fueling this superhero, a child who was different from the beginning.


With that first sentence, author Minh Le has us hooked.  What made this child different?  As each aspect of her personality is disclosed, each reader will bring their personal experiences to interpret those aspects.  You will find yourself nodding knowingly or howling with laughter or both.  Three times, Minh Le takes us on a whirlwind of growing up, only to have us pause and savor that pause.  It is a splendid storytelling technique.  Here is a passage.

NOTHING STANDS IN THE WAY AS
THE BLUR TAKES THE WORLD BY STORM!

And yet . . .

CRASH!


How can you look at the front, right side, of the dust jacket and not want to hug this family?  Happiness radiates off this image.  Everyone is smiling, the parents, the daughter, the puppy, and even the stuffed toy lion.  (It looks like a smile to me.)  Artist Dan Santat has placed these individuals on a background collage of captured moments from the interior pages.  The dots consist of color combinations from the title text.  They might also signify time and how fast it can pass.

To the left of the spine, on the back, on a light cream and peach background is a single image.  It is a graduation hat thrown in the air.  Multi-colored dots balloon up from the hat.  Everything on the front and back of the dust jacket is varnished except for the background and background pictures.

On the book case the canvas changes to a blend of white and teal.  Teal swirls and loops on the back and front indicate a path taken by The Blur.  She is running on the front, eyes closed in bliss with her mouth open in happiness and her arms wide open.  Her cape is flying behind her as colored dots follow her movements.  Her puppy is running and barking beside her.  (I want to run with them!)

On the opening and closing endpapers on a white background are large, vibrant dots.  They look as if they are circles of watercolor or chalk.  On the right side of the opening endpapers, there is an additional element.  It is a bandage appearing under the words:

THIS BOOK IS FOR:

These images by Dan Santat were

created using colored pencil and watercolor on paper and Adobe Photoshop.

On the title page sits the stuffed toy lion next to a vase of flowers with a congratulations card.  That lion is on its way to resting with the child in the hospital bed on the next two-page picture.  Illustration sizes vary from double-page visuals to single-page pictures, edge to edge, or surrounded by white space for dramatic framing.  Sometimes there will be multiple pictures on a single page to interpret the words pictorially. Several times the parents (and The Blur) are placed among smaller images.  The details in the illustrations and facial expressions of the parents and their daughter ask us to stop, to freeze time and remember and laugh and cry.  (I love how the younger girl swings into a series of pictures on one page and with a page turn she swings out of another set of images, but is now much older.  Brilliant.)

One of my many favorite illustrations is when The Blur believes she is invisible.  She is seated on the floor, wearing a one piece pair of pajamas with feet.  She has her cape, now much larger, held in her hands and covering her eyes.  Her puppy sits next to her, tail wagging and nose sniffing.  They are enveloped in white space.


This book, The Blur written by Minh Le with artwork by Dan Santat, is about a special child, all children, and time.  It is a recognition of how precious every moment is, even though when we are in the midst of them, we don't always appreciate their value.  It asks us to hold fast to life.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.  You will find yourself gifting this title repeatedly.

To discover more about Minh Le and Dan Santat and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Minh Le has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Dan Santat has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and TwitterMinh Le and Dan Santat Talk with Roger at The Horn Book about this title.  Minh Le and Dan Santat are interviewed about this book at We Need Diverse Books.  The cover reveal was at School Library Journal, 100 Scope Notes, hosted by Travis Jonker and an interview with the collaborators.  At Penguin Random House, you can view the endpapers.





The thing about life is regardless of our past, present, or possible future, things happen beyond our control.  There are things wonderful beyond our imagining and things which plunge us into deep sadness.  We find ourselves stunned by both.  

What we can do in those times of tragedy is look for a sliver of silver lining.  It may not be there for a long time.  If we cannot find it, perhaps we need to change or be a part of a larger change.  If children are a part of our lives, as parents, caregivers, or educators, we need to help them to understand their futures are full of potential and promise.  Like the weather, the clouds pass to reveal the sunshine or moonlight and stars.  You Are Here (Chronicle Books, May 10, 2022) written and illustrated by Zach Manbeck is a joyful reminder to be ourselves, going forward with hope.  It is his debut book. 

YOU are here.
And from here,

you can go anywhere! 

Readers are next asked a question.

But how will you find your way?

The following pages paint in words and pictures possible positive paths.  Although it might seem obvious, we need to begin.  Depending on our abilities, we will all begin differently.

We are invited to be explorers.  There is no perfect direction for everyone.  Some individuals will go quickly, others more slowly.  There will be those who are at the same pace as we are. 

Will the path be smooth?  Sometimes it will.  Sometimes it won't, but we need to be relentless in seeking our potential and promise. 

We need to be ready for what we might discover using our senses.  Perhaps we begin anew each day.  That is why it is most important to remember where we are . . . always.


The thoughts presented in this book by Zach Manbeck are bursting with positivity.  Every recommendation is as if he is cheering for readers, encouraging them forward.  Individuality is paramount in this delivery.  Here is a passage.

BE PATIENT

You'll find your way . . .

if you let if find you.


The color palette shown on the open dust jacket is used throughout the book.  It speaks to warmth and new growth and being fully alive.  On the front, right side, we are introduced to many of the children and one of the animals seen often in the narrative.  The yellow butterfly figures importantly and prominently in many of the images.  It can be seen as a symbol of change, growth, and the beauty of becoming your best self.  The rays are embossed in gold.

To the left of the spine, on the back, more children and two animals run to the right.  They are running through what appears to be a jungle, replete with tall plants, trees and hanging vines.  One individual has a pair of binoculars and the other holds a magnifying glass.

On the cream book case a large yellow butterfly is displayed.  The center of the butterfly is in the center on the right side.  The left wing crosses the spine into the center of the left side.  The right wing bleeds off the right side.  A looping line from the left indicates the flight of the insect.  The thumb and finger of a child reaches toward the body of the butterfly from the bottom of the illustration.

The opening and closing endpapers are bright yellow with spots of green and orange.  Three separate pages, a word on each page, delivers the title to readers.  The word "here" is shown in a circle of cream on orange with the yellow butterfly zooming in from the left.

These illustrations by Zach Manbeck 

were rendered in gouache and various mixed media, then edited digitally.

Large circles become frames for the children and text and act as design elements with stars and splashes of bright colors, depending on the setting.  The setting might be a garden, a jungle, a cave, different modes of travel or an array of contraptions.  The layouts draw our eyes to the individuals and their activities.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture. It is a jungle and floral scene.  All we can see on most of the visual is darkened outlines, except for a particular area.  On the left side, a child, the first child and wearing a backpack is running into this darkness.  In one hand they are holding a flashlight.  It makes a beam of light through the darkness to the right, ending in a large circle holding the text.  Wherever the light shines, the colors are boldly shown.


The exuberance you feel after a positive affirmation envelopes you with every page turn in You Are Here written and illustrated by Zach Manbeck.  This book is yes to no and go to stop.  It is hope.  You will want to place a copy on the bookshelves in your personal and professional collections.

By following the link attached to Zach Manbeck's name, you can access his website, finding out more about him and his work.  Zach Manbeck has accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior pictures. 




In my cupboard is an array of tea canisters.  Each one holds a different flavor of tea.  They supply me with selections based on the time of day, my level of thirst, and my emotional frame of mind.  Tea is a source of comfort.  Depending on the type of mug or glass, the tea can cool on a sweltering day or warm hands and body on a chilly morning or evening.  It can elevate a meal or celebration or be a reminder of people no longer with us.  (I still have some of the tea cups and saucers my mother collected.)

Tea and tea ceremonies are found in all corners of the world.  When drinking tea, connections are made with those other people and their communities.  In an endearing story, a bow of respect, to those connections, Luli and the Language of Tea (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, May 24, 2022) written by Andrea Wang with pictures by Hyewon Yum presents to children the power they have through sincerity and their hearts to add light to their worlds.

The playroom was quiet.
Luli couldn't speak English.
Neither could the others.

Not being able to communicate with each other, the children were apart, playing by themselves.  This was what Luli did when she was previously at the playroom.  Then, she had an idea.  She made a picture to show Miss Hirokane her idea.  

This next time Luli took special items from her backpack.  She removed 

a thermos, a canister, stacks of cups, and a fat-bellied teapot.

Luli got busy combining and using these items.  Then, Luli called out a word in Chinese.

The children stopped playing and looked at Luli.  Soon single words were called out, child by child, around the room, in nine different languages.  Do you know what those words meant?

Pulling up chairs, the children came to the table.  The tea was poured in the first cup and passed from child to child until each child had a cup.  Wait! There was no tea left for Luli.  Luli's cup was passed from child to child.  Everyone was speaking the same language, the language of sharing and the language of . . .


With simple, lovely sentences Andrea Wang supplies readers with an understanding of Luli's heart and the hearts of the other children in the room.  Are we not all looking for connections and commonality like these children?  After Luli calls out tea in her language, a cadence is supplied by each child responding with the word for tea in their language.  Andrea Wang also gives us their first name, making the story more intimate. (The word for tea is also written in its native language.)  She again generates a rhythm when the tea cups are passed from child to child, naming them and once more when Luli's cup is passed from child to child.  Andrea Wang's carefully chosen words welcome us.  Here is a passage.

Now everyone had a share.
Hands curled around warm cups.
Mouths curved into shy smiles.


In looking at the matching dust jacket and book case, we meet Luli, the one child who made a huge difference, and how she changed the entire atmosphere in the playroom.  On the front, right side, her quiet, gentle smile speaks volumes.  We want to know what she has to say and what the language of tea is.  To the left of the spine, on the back, we see the children after drinking their tea.  There are still some at the table with Luli.  Two more are chatting as they walk away.  Two children are on the floor playing with a toy bulldozer.  Two are standing by the shelves watching three goldfish swim in a bowl.  

Still using a brilliant white canvas with excellence, Hyewon Yum features ten cups for tea gathered from the countries of Morocco, Iran, China, Chile, India, Kenya, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Germany on the opening and closing endpapers.  They are drawn in detail and labeled.  Two more page turns begin the pictorial story.  The first double-page picture shows parents going through the door to a classroom for learning English as a second language.  The children enter the playroom door next to the classroom.  For the verso and title pages, this image shows Luli peeking through the playroom doorway.

Rendered with

colored pencils

by artist Hyewon Yum, the illustrations complement the narrative with their delicate details.  The images are double-page pictures, some of them including two moments in one visual, and single-page pictures. Sometimes there are two images to a page using vertical and horizontal panels. Her use of white space is splendid with it acting as another element.  Perspective is shifted to accentuate the pacing and to provide us with added emotion.  The bird's eye view of the table with the seated children and their cups of tea is exquisite.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page picture.  Luli is seated at the table.  Before her are the

full-bellied teapot, stacks of cups, and the canister

in blue and white.  Luli's mouth, after she took a breath, is wide open as she shouts tea in Chinese.  This is the beginning of something important.


When I think of the children in this playroom, alone and separated by a language barrier, my love for this brave and wise child swells.  Luli and the Language of Tea written by Andrea Wang with artwork by Hyewon Yum allows children to see, regardless of their age, the power they have to make positive changes.  At the close of the book is A Note from the Author, words under About the Children and Languages in This Story and a focus on people from Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America.  The children are identified by the country from which they immigrated.  I highly recommend you place a copy of this book in your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Andrea Wang and Hyewon Yum and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Andrea Wang has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Hyewon Yum has accounts on FacebookInstagram, and TwitterAndrea Wang and this book are showcased at author, reviewer, and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Andrea Wang speaks about this book at PictureBookBuilders for the cover revealAt Maria Marshall's site the author and illustrator are interviewed about this book, their work, and themselves.  At the publisher's website, there is an educator's guide.  At Penguin Random House, you can view the endpapers.