Quote of the Month

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

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Happy New Year 2023 One Little Word Fiction Part IV

In less than twenty-four hours, the ALA Youth Media Awards will be live-streamed.  They will begin at 8:00 am Central Time in New Orleans where the LibLearnX: The Library Learning Experience conference is being held.  In reading the press kit for this event, at least twenty-two awards will be given.  Some will have multiple honorees or only a few in addition to the top title for each category.  It is a day for authors, illustrators, publishers, and all those who have supported the authors and illustrators along with millions of readers to rejoice with the recipients.  It is also a day to send out love to all those authors and illustrators who are not recipients, for their books have touched readers in wonderful ways we can never know.  

This is why I am writing my fourth post in this series to draw attention to the final eleven books in 2022 too good to miss.  These are books, if you will recall my first post, that I was unable to showcase with individual blog posts.  Due to time constraints, I will be shortening what I include in the listing of each book.

Each one will receive one little word.  I will link to the author and illustrator websites or one of their active social media accounts.  A link will be attached to the publisher's name, also.  If there are additional resources at the publisher's website, that will be noted.  The first few sentences in the book, a short blurb of my own, and comments about the words and artwork will be provided.  If there are other resources I believe to be helpful, like articles or videos, I will include them.  

This is the longest series I have ever done, fiction and the previous nonfiction posts, about 2022 books I want to honor before blogging about 2023 books.  It has been joyous to reread all these books.  Their impact is even greater than the first time they were read.  This is a sign of a great story.  Happy reading fellow readers!


Farmhouse (Little, Brown and Company, September 13, 2022) written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall

At the publisher's website is a list of the best books of 2022 on which this title appears.  Co-authors Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson of Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature with Peter D. Sieruta, both showcase this book on their respective sites, A Fuse #8 Production, School Library Journal and Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Jules' post contains lots of process art and an entire guest post by Sophie Blackall.  It's a treasure of a final post for the incredible Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  In addition to visiting her website, you might want to visit Sophie's Instagram account for a collection of visuals with reference to this book.  Colby Sharp chats with Sophie Blackall on The Yarn about this book.  This episode is truly mesmerizing.  There is an author's note at the end, words when read that feel as though you can hear Sophie's voice softly speaking them to you.  There are also photographs of the farmhouse, inside and outside.  These two pages are the closing endpapers.

Over a hill,
at the end of a road,
by a glittering stream
that twists and turns,
stands a house

In this farmhouse, twelve children lived with their parents.  They were all born there and stayed until they were ready to go.  Their growth was marked on the wall near the stairs.  They made the colorful shapes on the walls using carved potatoes and paint.  Painting the cat might have been involved.  Some of these children were sent to their rooms for this prank.

These rooms were places of learning from books.  Dreams grew there, too.  Collections were stored.  Secrets were whispered.  Games were played.

This was a farmhouse so the cows were milked twice a day by two of the children.  Depending on the weather or the season or both, this chore was either enjoyed or dreaded.  They did all the other chores necessary on a dairy farm, but still found time to fish in the nearby stream.

They gathered together for dinner, thanks and soup and bread freely given.  In the evening, they did not rest but did small things to keep everything as it should be.  One day, the youngest of twelve, now old, left the house.  She was the last to leave, ready to make a dream come true.  Time and the elements would have their way on the now silent home until on another day an author illustrator walked inside.

Even without a single piece of art, this narrative, a single sentence by Sophie Blackall, will soothe places in your soul you didn't know needed soothing.  Word by word and phrase by phrase she builds the lives of the children and their parents in this farmhouse.  She elevates the ordinary to something poetically beautiful.  It is their story, but like all our stories, worth retelling over and over.

When you open the dust jacket, the remainder of the house crosses the spine with the rolling hills extending to the left.  The artwork behind the windows is varnished to give the effect of glass.  The title text is raised to the touch.  On the book case is a cut-away of the home, showing the family living their lives in the rooms which are revealed one by one inside the book.  It is exactly what you see through the windows on the dust jacket.  The opening endpapers feature materials used in the artwork.


Feathers Together: Inspired by a pair of real birds with an unbreakable bond (Abrams Books for Young Readers, October 4, 2022) written by Caron Levis with illustrations by Charles Santoso

There are interior images to see at the publisher's website.  Maria Marshall, host of her site, Making Nature Fun, interviews the creators about this title.  There is an author interview at Only Picture Books where Caron Levis speaks about her work including this titleAt the end of the book is an explanatory author's note.  Several resources are mentioned.

Rain or shine, Klepetan and Malena explored every season together.

When spring bloomed and hopped,
he inspected everything closely--klep klep, hmm---

and she jumped into it all with wings wide open.

Through all the seasons, these two storks did everything together until one day Malena was injured.  A kindly gentleman devised a method so Malena, who cannot now fly, could nestle in their new nest with her partner, Klepetan.  This new nest was on top of the man's home.  The storks, the man, and even his cat became a family.

Soon, the shifting seasons dictated Klepetan should migrate from Croatia to South Africa.  The two had never been apart.  One day, the flock soared south with the villagers watching.  Klepetan and Malena would not stop looking at each other.  Klepetan adapted in the south and Malena built a nest inside the man's home.  It was not the same, though.  Each stored away stories and jokes to share later.

When the flocks in the south started flying home, Klepetan was blown off course by a storm.  Malena was frantically searching the skies until one day, one last stork landed on the roof by their nest.  That evening the telling began.  

With great care, Caron Levis fashions the world of these two birds.  In this way readers are able to understand the astonishing relationship they maintained even though they were separated every year by Klepetan's migration.  She demonstrates the strength of their bond by providing us details of their daily lives and adding in the jokes Klepetan tells and the stories Malena weaves at bedtime.  Caron Levis repeatedly uses 

"Whatever the weather, we'll weather it---"
"Feathers together!"

to secure each portion of the narrative into links on a fabulous chain.

The illustrations for this book were made with digital brushes and love.  Those brush strokes and that love by Charles Santoso radiates from every image.  The sky behind the two storks on the front of the dust jacket spans over the spine and to the far left side.  On the book case an interior illustration is presented.  It is the first time Klepetan arrives back from the south.  He and Malena are standing apart (until she rushes to him).  The shifting perspectives of the birds alone in varying habitats, together in the other seasons, and in flight are gorgeous and perceptive.


Wombat Said Come In (Margaret Quinlin Books, Peachtree, October 6, 2022) written by Carmen Agra Deedy with illustrations by Brian Lies

At the publisher's website, you can see the opening two-page picture.  There are additional resources, an educator's guide, a poster, and a ten-page storytime kit. At Penguin Random House, you can see the opening and closing endpapers.  There is an additional two-page picture at the illustrator's website.  This title is featured at The TeachingBooks Blog with a collaborator chat and other resources.  Maria Marshall interviews both Carmen Agra Deedy and Brian Lies at her site, Making Nature Fun.  Read about Carmen Agra Deedy, her writing and this book at Rough Draft, Atlanta.

Wombat was not worried.

No, not a little.  Fire had passed over his
burrow before.

Wombat might not be worried, but before too long he realized his neighbors were very worried and rightly so.  As he was about to settle with tea and his quilt, Wallaby knocked on his door seeking shelter.  Inside, Wallaby curled under the quilt and fell asleep.  

Door knock after door knock revealed a cast of critters needing sanctuary.  Kookaburra, Platypus, and Koala followed, the latter dragging in a huge branch of eucalyptus.  They quickly made themselves at home, enjoying Wombat's creature comforts.

When Sugar Glider arrives and causes chaos, Wombat nearly loses his temper, but thinks maybe this would not last long.  He was wrong.  After days, Wombat noticed a difference.  Checking outside, he knew it was time for his guests to skedaddle.  And they did, except for one.  Who was it?

With her gift for story, Carmen Agra Deedy introduces us to Wombat.  As each guest arrives, he welcomes them with a five-line rhyming refrain.  This is an invitation for readers to participate.  Through text, conversation, and Wombat's thoughts, each of the animal's personalities are presented in their uniqueness.  This is a masterful tale for reading aloud or a reader's theater.

Before the story even begins, behold the artwork of Brian Lies.  Wombat on both the front and back of the dust jacket welcomes neighbors into his home.  On the inside of the dust jacket is a cut-away of Wombat's home, his rooms underground. On the left inside flap is a quiz to test your knowledge of wombats with the answers.

 On the book case is Wombat's door.  Eyes and a finger poke through the postal flap. The opening and closing endpapers show the ground leading to Wombat's welcome mat. Each image regardless of its size is carefully rendered in acrylics and colored pencil on Strathmore paper, making use of light and shadow with excellence.  Each page turn, a captured moment, asks us to pause and we do.



The Three Billy Goats Gruff (Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc, October 18, 2022) retold by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Jon Klassen

Publishers Weekly hosts the cover reveal with a conversation between the creators which is hilarious and informational.  Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are interviewed by Betsy Bird about this title on her A Fuse #8 Production, School Library Journal

Once upon a time,
there was a bridge.

And beneath that bridge,
there lived a troll.

By the next page turn, you know exactly who this troll is and what he likes to eat.  Then, you turn a page to find out he is nearly starving and eating things that will have you laughing out loud.  This troll is in dire straits.

Soon, the smaller of the goats starts to cross the bridge.  The troll calls out with his refrain.  The troll is beside himself with delight at discovering it's a goat wanting to cross.  He starts imaging aloud all the delectable delights he can have with goat meat.

As we all know, the little goat strikes a bargain with the troll. While congratulating himself on his ingenuity, the troll hears the bigger brother crossing the bridge.  A similar scenario follows. (You'll be laughing so hard you can hardly breathe.)

When the third brother arrives, readers, like the troll, will be shocked.  What happens to the troll is genius, a trio of trouble.  Where are the goats you ask?  The last line says it all.

All I can say is Mac Barnett must have had the grandest time writing this version.  His knowledge of the tale is without question, but his interpretation is what we readers need.  Laughter.  It is delivered in spades with masterful pacing.

Jon Klassen's distinctive artwork initially leaves no doubt in readers' minds as to the grossness of the troll.  We see him in his residence on the front of the dust jacket.  On the back of the jacket his space is empty.  The book case tells the twisted shocking truth.  The opening and closing endpapers exhibit the dark and dreary world of the troll.  The perspectives by Jon Klassen and the images' size are excellent, elevating the witty text.

Jon Klassen's illustrations were created with inks, watercolor, and graphite and compiled digitally.


Walter Had a Best Friend (Beach Lane Books, October 18, 2022) written by Deborah Underwood with illustrations by Sergio Ruzzier

At the publisher's website, you can view interior images including the open dust jacket.  There is also a guide to using books about feelings and emotions and activity sheets. 

Walter had a best friend named Xavier.

They shared favorite activities together like hiking and painting.  They knew how to be quiet together.  Their friendship meant everything to Walter.

One day, though, without Walter quite understanding what was happening, Penelope walked past Walter and Xavier.  Xavier, without fanfare strolled away from Walter, seeming to prefer her company to Walter's.  They did invite Walter to a ball game, but something had shifted in the relationship between Walter and Xavier.

Walter was despondent.  He no longer went hiking or did any painting.  And the quiet was haunting.  He couldn't be mad at either Xavier or Penelope.

Then, one day, without Walter not quite understanding what was happening, the sun's rays warmed his heart.  He decided to go hiking on a different trail.  A voice called to Walter.  That was all he needed.

When Deborah Underwood writes, she takes simple declarative sentences and imbues them with emotion. Her repetition of several words allows readers to see how change can slowly happen, but still have a huge impact.  Deborah Underwood understands feelings and expresses them lovingly through her characters in this book.

There is no mistaking the artwork of Sergio Ruzzier.  His use of pastel colors and whimsically rendered characters add an element of otherworldliness to his work.  And yet, we identify with his depictions.  The facial expressions and body postures on the characters in this book heighten the text.  His smallest details, like the X + W on the back of the boat the duo is seated in, bring us closer into the story.


So Much Snow (Random House Studio, October 25, 2022) written by Kristen Schroeder with illustrations by Sarah Jacoby

At the publisher's website, you can view interior illustrations.  Enjoy a six question and answer interview with the author at author Erin Dealy's site.  

On Monday, it starts to snow.

Silent swirling.

How high will it go? 

On Tuesday, on Wednesday, on Thursday, on Friday, and on Saturday, it snows.  It gets deeper.  The mounds get steeper.  On Sunday, the snow stops but not before almost burying a very large animal 

Another question is asked of readers?  For each day of the week, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the sun shines, it rains and the sun shines, again. The snow amounts begin to lower.  

Each of the animals we met as the snow fell, a mouse, rabbit, fox, wolf, deer, bear, and moose, begin to appear again as the snow fades.


It looks like spring is about to arrive or is it?

This book is a read-aloud gem with the patterns that are established by Kristen Schroeder.  Days of the week are part of the first sentence beginning each passage, they are followed by a two-word alliterative statement, and then the question.  This cadence reverses with the question asked when the snow stops.  We have the days of the week in the first sentence, again followed by a two-world alliterative statement, but then the animal is noticed and greeted.  When it seems like winter is shifting into spring, Kristen Schroeder cleverly adds a twist.

These illustrations by Sarah Jacoby made with

watercolor, chalky pastel, and Photoshop

pair superbly with the story.  Their soft texture welcomes us into the animals' world.  They are playful and animated, giving us a glimpse of their personalities as the snow falls, getting deeper and deeper.  (If you go to her website, you can see the fabulous picture of the bear climbing a tree during the storm.)  And, the expression on the bear's face when the twist is introduced is priceless.


Izzy Paints (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, November 8, 2022) written and illustrated by Tim Miller

At the publisher's website, you can download a teaching guide.  Please visit Tim Miller's Instagram account to view interior pictures and some process artwork for this book.

Izzy likes living in a big city.
There is a lot to explore.

This little koala notices a museum in the big city.  There in the large central hall, Izzy begins to walk around noticing paintings and sculptures of all kinds.  (Some look very familiar.)  Izzy feels inspired.  It influences her.

Traveling home, Izzy starts to think.  She is thinking she could be an artist.  She opens a closet at home and selects her medium and tools.  She is ready to make art!

Looking at the blank canvas has her stumped.  What should she paint?  Seeing the sun shining outside is just the motivation she needs.  She dips into one color after the other, using a variety of painting techniques, scribbles, drips, dots, and on and on.

Izzy lets everything she feels on the inside come alive on the outside when she paints.  Wow!  She knows what to do next.

The short simple sentences of Tim Miller invite all readers into the story.  His statements take us step by step into Izzy's awakening and the results of her artistic expression.  Through his pacing we understand the difference between looking, seeing, feeling, and listening to art.

The artist used time, critical thinking, problem-solving, imagination, creativity, lots of paper, brushes, ink, watercolor, acrylic gouache, and digital hocus-pocus to create the illustrations for this book.

The bold, bright colors with the black lines are uplifting.  We know this story is going to be wonderful.  Careful readers need to notice the names of the businesses and what people are doing in their apartments.  Inside the museum, they might see characters from other books.  (Is that Snappsy? Or maybe a relative?)  You might find yourself bursting into laughter at the menu in the museum restaurant.  Look at the license plate on the yellow car.  Readers will be rewarded when they remove the dust jacket to view the book case.


How to Send a HUG (Little, Brown and Company, November 15, 2022) written by Hayley Rocco with illustrations by John Rocco

At the publisher's website, you can download four activity sheets.  At the close of the book is a letter to readers from the author.  She tells us the importance of letter writing in her life.  

I love hugs.
I've been told I am really good at giving them.

This girl lists the kind of hugs she gives and tells us of the one hug she can't give.  It is to her grandma Gertie who lives miles away.  They chat on the phone and the computer, but it is not a hug.

There is a way to send a hug, though, she tells us.  She gets a proper writing utensil, paper and other supplies for drawing pictures.  You can make any combination of writing and drawing when sending a hug.  It is your choice.

You fold the hug, place it in a jacket (envelope), address it and put on a ticket (stamp).  You need to take it to a place where its trip starts.  There is an assortment of those, but the

Hug Delivery Specialist 

is the one who takes your hug and sends it toward its destination.  At many of its stops there are a lot of hugs that need sorting and sending.

As she waits for her hug to be received, the girl thinks of all the hugs around the world and how they will be delivered and who will get them.  She knows the best part of all----when they arrive and are opened and read.  Okay, the very, very best part of all is getting a hug back!

Readers will be endeared to the character through the words penned by Hayley Rocco.  By telling this story in the first person, we see the act of letter writing, sending a hug, through the mind, heart, and eyes of a child.  What's not to love about a child that calls an envelope a jacket and a stamp a ticket?  The girl's entire process is told in careful, explicit language.  Sending a hug is an act of love.

Throughout the story, this little girl who lives in the country with a pond in her front yard has a goose for a companion.  John Rocco is telling us she has a gentle soul.  To enhance her voice in telling us how to send a hug, he has her look directly at us sometimes.  His wordless double-page picture of the interior of a large postal sorting facility is fabulous.  Banners and signs inside the facility refer to 

hug delivery.

The opening and closing endpapers are vibrant childlike drawings in crayons and markers.  On the bookcase is an interior image from the story showing people from around the world under a rainbow reading their hugs.  Over and underneath the rainbow are hand-written letters.  This is very moving.


I don't care (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, November 22, 2022) written by Julie Fogliano with illustrations by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal 

At Penguin Random House, you can see the opening endpapers.  This title is showcased on NPR Special Series Picture This.  There are several interior images to view there.  You will enjoy this article in Publishers Weekly about the collaboration when the cover was revealed.  At Shelf Awareness, the two illustrators chat about their own friendship and their collaboration on this title.  At the close of the book on the two dedication pages, the illustrators have notes you'll want to read.

I really don't care what you think of my hair
or my eyes or my toes or my nose

I really don't care 
what you think of my boots
or if you don't like my clothes

These two girls with every page turn talk about not caring what the other thinks about them.  They talk about singing, drawing, physical traits, houses, siblings, parents, and lunches.  Then, it starts to become apparent that maybe, just maybe, the two can be friends.

The tone of their banter is getting friendlier.  They start to tell each other what they do care about them.  They start to point out the good in each other.  Their compassion for one another grows.

They care how the other is feeling.  They care about sharing.  They care more about together than apart.

It is very easy to imagine two children speaking to each other with the words author Julie Fogliano has written.  Their remarks are very personal.  Julie Fogliano's ability to make this conversation rhyme is genius.  It is almost as if they are chanting this to each other.  With her writing, the shift in their attitude toward each other is subtle, but it is there.  It is then we see that their banter was really a prelude to the symphony of friendship.

The artwork for this book was created with linocuts and graphite on paper.

The open dust jacket depicts the beginning and ending of the story beautifully.  On the front we see the girls back to back, each standing in their own color.  On the back they are holding hands and their color shapes are higher and overlap between them.  On the book case on the left is the blue and white polka-dotted boots pattern of the one girl.  On the right is the yellow and white flowered dress pattern of the other girl.  The opening and closing endpapers also mirror the changes, going from graphite to a hue from the blend of blue and yellow.  The lines and shading of each illustrator, Molly Idle and Juanita Martinez-Neal, are distinctive, but also share a similarity.  As the story progresses the tree between the girls is no longer a barrier.  It becomes a shared space.  We see a shift in their relationship in the art first.  There is a tiny yellow flower on the blue side and a blue pencil on the yellow side.  The final image, of just the bottom of their legs and boots hanging over the tire swing in which they sit, is perfection.  This is on the dedication pages.



Yetis Are The Worst! (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, November 22, 2022) written and illustrated by Alex Willan  (This title is a companion book to Dragons Are The Worst! and Unicorns Are The Worst! )

At the publisher's website, you can view interior images including the covers of all three books.

Did you know that
we goblins can be 
quite secretive?

We lurk in the shadows.

Yes, friends, Gilbert the goblin has returned.  He is currently extolling goblin attributes but pauses to wonder why people are more fascinated with yetis!  They might be mysterious, but there are lots of other mysterious things like what does the tooth fairy do with all those teeth?

Gilbert is going to take the mystery out of yetis by finding one and capturing it on his polaroid camera.  As he climbs the mountain, he keeps seeing what he thinks is a yeti, but ultimately it is not.  All the time he is doing this, yetis are watching him and following him.  The higher Gilbert goes up the mountain, the weirder are the objects he finds that could be a yeti.  A meditating mountain goat?  A snowboarding unicorn in a puffy coat?

Gilbert at the top of the mountain gives up and shouts the title text causing an avalanche.  He gets swooshed into a

secret yeti hideout.

What he sees down there will have readers rolling on the floor laughing.  And they will ask you to read it again or they will read it over and over themselves.

Told entirely in dialogue (Gilbert's), the keen sense of humor of Alex Willan bursts off the pages.  Gilbert's nonstop commentary and his logic propel the story to hilarious heights.  Of course, in his never-ending wisdom Gilbert brings the story to a close saying he was right from the beginning . . . or was he?  You might want to think twice about reading this aloud before bedtime because your listeners will be laughing too hard to sleep.

Has a goblin ever been featured as hilarious-looking as Gilbert?  His huge eyes and large ears will bring on the giggles immediately.  Alex Willan uses full color images, some in panels, others like the Yetis! map across two pages, and full-page pictures, edge to edge.  The opening endpapers are a snowy background with blue yeti footprints in it.  On the closing endpapers is a collage of polaroid pictures of Gilbert with the yetis.


The Sun Is Late And So Is The Farmer (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, November 29, 2022) written by Philip C. Stead with illustrations by Erin E. Stead

At the publisher's website, you can download an educator's guide.  The creator's maintain a shared website titled The Stead Collection.  You will want to visit the creator's shared Instagram account to view art for this book and process art videos.  Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead are guests on Kansas Public Radio Conversations with host Dan Skinner.

A mule,
a milk cow,
a miniature horse,
standing in a barn door
waiting for the sun to rise.

They stand there in companionable silence surrounded by silence.  They then believe the sun is late which makes the farmer late and the miniature horse thinks they should check with Barn Owl about what they should do.  That is what they do.  Barn Owl is resting on the peak of the chicken coop.

So they won't miss breakfast, Barn Owl speaks to them about a quest they must take to the edge of the world.  He also tells them to take Rooster.  Mule, Milk Cow, and Miniature Horse are deeply concerned about this quest and the courage they will each need.

As they pass by each special marker Barn Owl mentioned, they start to speculate about dreams.  Mule gives answers but is not really sure if they are correct until the final one.  Mule knows the farmer's dreams are like their dreams.

This narrative by Philip C. Stead reads like a poem.  Prior to each new shift in the story, he lists

a mule, a milk cow, a miniature horse.

This establishes an enveloping cadence.  There is a soothing blend of narration by an unseen observer and the dialogue of each character.  This story is an exquisite look at what is reality and what is not.

The artwork for this book was created with watercolor, pencil, and colored pencil.

The color palette chosen by Erin E. Stead gives a completely atmospheric luminescence to each illustration.  When silence is spoken of in the story, her artwork is the essence of silence.  Her animals are enchanting in their innocence and gentleness.  She alternates the image sizes from full page with large white/cream borders to page and nearly one-half creating a column for the text and full-page pictures edge to edge.  She enhances the text when necessary fashioning a fence with sheep stretching the entire width of two pages.  She does this two more times in sequence when Barn Owl is speaking.  This book cannot be read without a calm being created from the artwork alone, but the artwork coupled with the text is a thing of beauty.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Happy New Year 2023 One Little Word Fiction Part III

We have a Gale Warning in effect until ten o'clock this evening, January 27, 2023.  The winds have turned the snow in our yards into sculpted frosting, full of waves and peaks.  The wind chill was thankfully above the teens for a bit, but it is now bitter cold.  Not one flake of the promised snow has fallen. (It just started!) Nevertheless, Mulan and I are together in front of the fireplace; she is behind me on the sofa, nestled between the cushions.  The air is filled with the comforting aroma of vegetarian stuffed peppers baking in the oven.

A stack of twelve books is next to my computer.   Each one will receive one little word.  There might be more than one title for a given word.  I will link to the author and illustrator websites or one of their active social media accounts.  A link will be attached to the name of the publisher.  If they have additional resources on their site for the book, it will be noted.

The first few sentences in the book, a short blurb of my own, and comments about the words and artwork will be provided.  If there are other resources I believe to be helpful, like articles or videos, I will include them.  In writing these posts, it has been a pleasure to read these titles again.  I am thankful for the meticulous care given by the creators, the authors and illustrators, and those who supported their efforts.  When I view the realm of children's literature since I became an educator in the early 1970s, the changes are wonderful for all readers.

I hope you enjoy this third installment. 


The Notebook Keeper: A Story Of Kindness From The Border (Random House Studio, June 28, 2022) written by Stephen Briseno with illustrations by Magdalena Mora

At the publisher's website, you can view interior images including the softly-textured, colored and patterned opening and closing endpapers.  There is also an audio sample for you to hear.  There is a podcast called Picture Book Look in which a conversation takes place between the author, illustrator, and Anne Kelley.  In The San Diego Union-Tribune, there is an article discussing this book, and its origin with input from the author.  At the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), there is an Educator Guide and a Parent/Family Discussion Guide to download.  At the close of the book is an author's note and selected sources.

Mama tells me we have a long way to walk.

Before, sunshine drenched the yard.  Our
neighbors' laughter danced in the streets.

Now, Papa is gone.  The streets are unsafe.
We are leaving, too.

This is a story of a mother and daughter leaving their home and traveling with a long line of others to reach the San Ysidro border in Mexico.  Their arrival is not treated with compassion.  They are told to search for the notebook keeper.

The notebook keeper, Belinda, finds them.  Their names and from where they have come are written in the notebook.  They are given a number, 653.  They and the others with that number have to wait until it is called.  They wait for week after week, living and eating unlike anything previously experienced.

When Belinda's number is called, she will pass the responsibility of keeping the notebook to another.  She is searching for someone with a generous and understanding soul.  Will it be Noemi and her mother?

Debut author Stephen Briseno writes this from the little girl's perspective.  Some Spanish words are included in the narrative to supply readers with authenticity.  The sadness, the worry, and the waiting are not diminished, but hope rises to the top with his words.

Illustrator Magdalena Mora 

using colored pencil, pastel, gouache, and Photoshop collage

portrays people and settings brimming with emotion and tradition and truth.  When we are told by the child what she can bring with her, a single page is devoted to those items.  As others join Noemi and her mother, one page is joined to the next in a loop of shifting perspectives and color.  She takes us close to Noemi with a double-page picture when the notebook keeper appears.  The dust jacket and book case differ.


Everything in Its Place: A Story of Books and Belonging (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, July 19, 2022) written by Pauline David-Sax with illustrations by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

At the publisher's website, you can view interior illustrations including a collage of library cards and bookshelves on the opening and closing endpapers.  There is an audio excerpt.  At the author's website, you can sign up to receive an educator guide.  She also has a page dedicated to the story behind the story.  

The bell rings and I push open the library door.
The book-return bin is full.
Got your work cut out for you, Nicky, Ms. Gillam says.

Nicky feels like the library is a place where she is needed, a place with purpose for her.  She looks out the window, seeing her classmates at lunch recess in their usual groups.  There is no group where Nicky feels she has a place.

Shelving books is soothing to her.  Each book has a space on the shelves.  As she works, Ms. Gillam tells her she is leaving for a whole week to go to a conference.  A whole week of recess!?

Later at her mother's cafe, she feels comfortable with each patron, especially Maggie, who lends her good books.  Maggie rides a motorcycle and her favorite saying is tucked away in Nicky's mind.

That weekend, Maggie arrives with other women motorcyclists.  From this, Nicky realizes individuals can belong in the same space, sharing a common interest.  Recess on Monday is not as bad as she imagined.

For those readers who are shy, wondering if there is a place for them, author Pauline David-Sax writes with clarity and understanding.  We come to understand exactly how Nicky feels, our hearts wanting to hold her close.  This gentle story of differences and similarities will resonate with a lot of readers.

The artwork of Charnelle Pinkney Barlow for this title is a cheerful, soothing blend of what appears to be mixed media.  Her design and layout of collaged pieces is outstanding.  She places two different perspectives in a single double-page picture, allowing us to be two places at once.  Her depiction of the women motorcyclists inside the cafe is fantastic!

A Library (Versify, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, September 27, 2022) written by Nikki Giovanni with illustrations by Erin K. Robinson 

At the publisher's website, you can read a sample and listen to a sample.  This allows you to see the title page and first page. This book is highlighted at WCMU Public Radio, Central Michigan University.  Author Nikki Giovanni is in conversation at the Library of Congress about her work and this book.  At the close of the book is an author's note.  Nikki Giovanni talks about the library she visited in the summers and the special librarian there, Mrs. Long.

After breakfast on Monday,
Grandmother washes
the sheets and pillowcases.
I wash
the dishes.
I help her hang
the sheets outside
and watch the wind gently
blow them.

When her grandmother rests from their morning work, the girl rushes to the Carnegie Library.  Once there she describes all the meanings of a library to her.  Here she can be anything, do anything and be and do it freely and safely.

With each page turn, three, four and five word phrases take readers on a personal journey into this girl's explorations in this library.  It is in the library where dreams can become reality.  Here reality is the best it can be.

Back home, the laundry is taken from the line and put away.  Dinner is started.  And the girl snuggles in a quilt, reading and feeling free to be.

The pacing of Nikki Giovanni's poetic words is perfection.  She meticulously writes this tribute to all this library was for this girl and all it can be for everyone else.  This is a book for librarians and their patrons to treasure and a reminder for us to protect and preserve what libraries offer.

Illustrator Erin K. Robinson

used Procreate to create the illustrations

spanning one and two pages.  They are smooth, soft, and textured.  The child is highly animated as she tells us what a library is for her.  The depictions of her thoughts and dreams are lovely, truly lovely.


A Little Ferry Tale (A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books For Young Readers, August 2, 2022) written and illustrated by Chad Otis

At the publisher's website, you can view interior images and the open dust jacket.  There are activity sheets to download.  At the author illustrator website you can view other interior illustrations plus his other work.

Once, not so long ago
in a place with more water than land . . .

. . . there was a little ferry
who took people to visit a little island.

His passengers loved to watch Tugboat, Speedboat, and Sailboat perform their marvels.  She wished to be all the things they were, but she was not courageous, fast, or able to glide on the water.  She did know what her best traits were but they did not bring on cheers, until one day she had a thought.

She would be exactly as they were.  It did not go well because Little Ferry was not a tugboat, or a speedboat or a sailboat.  Sadly, she turned around to return to the dock when suddenly Tugboat tooted.  There is trouble on the island.  Smoke!

Tugboat, Speedboat, and Sailboat tried to help the animals but they frightened them.  Little Ferry used all her best qualities until she was overloaded with animals.  Would she sink?  She heard a small voice.  Those spoken words went straight to her heart.

Using the storytelling three technique, Chad Otis explains why Little Ferry wishes to be like the other boats.  He used it again to explain her best qualities and when she tried to replicate the other boats' actions.  This establishes a connection between the reader and the story.  We can identify with Little Ferry, but also recognize our gifts have their purpose, too.

Digitally rendered, the illustrations by Chad Otis pair excellently with the text.  They are stylized and explicit in their features.  There is a simplicity and rhythm to them, just as there is in the story.  On the opening endpapers, various boats in action are displayed.  The closing endpapers feature all the island animals Little Ferry was able to save.  The wide eyes of Little Ferry in several of the images are fabulous as is the perspective in which they are portrayed.


Forever Home (Scholastic Press, August 16, 2022) written and illustrated by Henry Cole

At Scholastic Canada, you can view an interior image.  In an author's note at the end of the book, Henry Cole explains the story behind this story.  He also discusses dog adoptions and giving pets a forever home.

This book is entirely wordless, a tender and truthful wordless wonder.  It begins on the opening endpapers with a small dog sitting on the porch of a home with a for sale sign out front.  In the pages prior to the title page, we see his abandonment.  He ends up living inside a cardboard box in the city.

In this same city, a boy longs for a dog.  He lives for having his own dog.  Carrying around a red leash, he implores his fathers to get him a dog, any breed will do.  How can a boy with such a messy room care for a dog?  He decides to pretend he has a dog, dragging the leash behind him.

Everywhere he goes, the dog (invisible) goes with him . . . in all kinds of weather.  One day, the boy sees the dog living in the cardboard box.  They are meant to be together, but what will his dads think?

Doing everything to demonstrate how responsible he can be, they agree to let him adopt the dog in the box.  When they get to the site, the dog is gone.  A trip to the shelter ends in jubilation.  The closing six pages and the closing endpapers will find, as will this story, a permanent place in your hearts.

The artwork for this book was rendered

with Micron ink pens on Canson paper.

In a word, it is astonishing.  These beautiful images ask you to pause, enjoying every exquisite line and the masterful use of light and shadow.  We feel every moment, the dejection of the dog, the desire of the boy for a dog and the path the boy takes to find his forever companion.  You will love the names Henry Cole gives the stores.  You will laugh at the boy's chaotic room, but you will also see how much he loves dogs, really loves dogs.  This book is timeless.  It will be much requested to be shared often.


Pip and Zip (Roaring Brook Press, August 23, 2022) written by Elana K. Arnold with illustrations by Doug Salati

At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.  This book is featured on Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  At the close of the book, the author tells the story behind the story, based upon an adventure her family had.  She has a portion titled What Should You Do If You Find a Duck Egg?  There is a short list of resources to use for more facts.

Once, when we all had to stay home for the whole long springtime,
when schools were closed
and work was closed
and everything fun was canceled,

after we were all so bored of TV
and computers
and video games
and screens of every kind,
Dad said, "Let's take a walk."

As the family walks, they see other neighbors cautiously out and about painting, roller skating, shooting hoops and walking their dogs at the park.  As they stroll around the lake in the park, they find one and then another egg in the water and the mud.  Mom puts one in each of her pockets.

They asked their neighbor, who was painting, what they should do.  These times were not normal, so a wildlife center was out of the question.  Ted loaned them an incubator.  The waiting and watching began.  It was a long, long time. 

And then . . .one day tiny little sounds announced the cracking of the eggs and the birth of baby ducks.  Ted said this was a first.  They watched and waited some more as Ted raised them.  Soon the ducks learned to fly and it was time to take them to the lake in the park.  They were free.  Soon we were, too.

Based upon personal experience, Elana K. Arnold has penned a story of joy in a time of uncertainty.  Through her words, she captures how something ordinary in the midst of something extraordinary can become extraordinary, too.  Everyone was experiencing what this family was enduring, but not everyone, even in the best of times, can hatch ducks from two found eggs. 

The artwork of Doug Salati, in double-page pictures, full-page pictures, and smaller single-page pictures with lots of white space, excellently depicts the overall mood of everyone at this time while taking our focus to the miracle this family witnessed.  His pencil-drawn visuals colored digitally are warmly realistic.  The finding of each egg is an intimate experience through his perspectives.  His portraits of the ducks in all the stages of their lives are marvelous!  


Patchwork (Putnam, G. P. Putnam's Sons, August 30, 2022) written by Matt de la Pena with illustrations by Corinna Luyken

At the publisher's website, you can view the endpapers.  There is also a teacher's guide to download.  The cover reveal at Imagination Soup hosted by Melissa Taylor contains an author and an illustrator interview about their work on this title.  Matt de la Pena and Corinna Luyken speak with Bianca Schulze (The Children's Book Review) about this book.  Kansas Public Radio, Weekend Edition, Conversations hosts a chat with these collaborators about Patchwork.  Matt de la Pena, an alumnus of the University of the Pacific, is featured in an article there with respect to this book.

You were blue before you were even born.
We mark, we mark.

We see the struggle of this boy as a child to be what he is expected to be, even though this is not what his heart is telling him.  We sigh and cheer inwardly, when he becomes his true self.  Another child is destined to be a dancer, but the same beat she feels when she dances helps her in coding.

Four more children evolve from their beginnings, using their desires and skills when they were younger, to build into something more perfect for them and for those around them.  We are told we are a 


made from many notes.  We are small pieces put together to be 


Anyone who hears or reads these words by Matt de la Pena will feel something stir in their souls.  He touches on finding our own paths with true beauty.  Three passages are devoted to each child.  After the first sentence, a two word phrase is repeated for each one (except for the final child).  These two word phrases can be viewed as adults believing that a child is supposed to be one thing and only one thing.  To see them progress is poignant, deeply poignant.  Matt de la Pena's closing words will have readers reflecting on what they can do and who they really are.


gouache, ink, and pencil

artist Corinna Luyken has elevated the words of Matt de la Pena, taking the title text and weaving it into each image. Lines and brush strokes mirror patterns and pieces.  Her dust jacket differs from the book case.  On the case all six diverse and distinct children are featured, three on each side.  Large pastel patches are displayed on a white background for the endpapers.  On the opening endpapers the patches are single colors.  On the closing endpapers, those single patches are filled with other patches of varying sizes and colors.  Her depictions of the people are as Matt says---beautiful.


Rick The Rock Of Room 214 (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, August 30, 2022) written by Julie Falatko with illustrations by Ruth Chan

At the publisher's website, you can view multiple illustrations including the open dust jacket.  There is an activity booklet to download.  There are also interior pictures at the illustrator's website.  Author Julie Falatko and author Tara Lazar chat about this book on Tara's website, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).

This is a rock.  He lives on the Nature Finds shelf in Room 214,
with an acorn, some moss, and a piece of bark.

On this shelf, Rick and his friends sit, watching the lively students in room 214.  Rick cannot think of a time when he was not sitting on this shelf.  During class one day, the teacher is talking about rocks, their properties and how they are formed.  This all looks much more exciting than sitting on a shelf.

Rick's companions on the shelf are content.  Rick is not.  He is ready for adventure.  He is going to leave that shelf as soon as possible.  And he does by rolling into a student's backpack and then landing on the ground outside.

What he discovers from all the other rocks on the ground is sitting on a shelf in room 214 might not be so boring.  It certainly is better than being in a thunderstorm.  What is Rick going to do?  

No one could have told this story of a rock sitting on a shelf in a classroom better than Julie Falatko.  Her sense of humor shines in every sentence.  She contrasts Rick with the children in the classroom.  She contrasts the teacher's lecture with Rick on the shelf.  And she, finally, contrasts Rick outside with Rick sitting on the shelf.  This is how Rick and readers realize the truth.  Rick's conversations with the acorn, moss, and bark, his shelf companions and the rocks outside are hilarious.

Ruth Chan used ink to create these illustrations and colored them digitally.  While the dust jacket focuses on Rick on the shelf with students next to that shelf, the book case highlights that first shining moment when Rick is outside in the grass.  The title page gives us an overview of the classroom cubbies and a peek inside through the doorway.  Ruth Chan's images vary in perspective and are highly animated, with wide-eyed (sometimes wild-eyed) looks on the students.  Careful readers will notice what the child who finds Rick is reading throughout the story.


All Are Neighbors (Alfred A. Knopf, August 23, 2022) written by Alexandra Penfold with illustrations by Suzanne Kaufman (This is a companion title to All Are Welcome.)

At the publisher's website, you can listen to an audio sample of this book.  Here is the link to a wonderful Classroom Activity Guide found at Random House Teachers & Librarians site.  You can view two-page interior images at the illustrator's website.

What is a community?

With this first sentence, this question, the narrative invites readers and the newest members of the neighborhood to take a journey.  We walk among all kinds of children and adults.  It is the morning and some leave for work.  Others remain home.

Everyone lends a hand when needed.  Down the streets and past the stores, there are people to see galore.  Everyone is busy, but not too busy to give a smile or a wave whether at the public library or the coffee shop or the park.

There are street performers.  There are food trucks.  Everyone is happy to see everyone.  This is a community, a multi-cultural blend of people from everywhere.

Throughout the story author Alexandra Penfold repeats a  phrase tying the entire narrative together, portion by portion.  She refers back to 

We all are neighbors here,

repeatedly.  It is the chorus to her verses.  Her explanatory verses come in three with the last world rhyming.  After reading this book, who wouldn't want to live here surrounded by this lively diverse group of people?

The vibrant artwork of Suzanne Kaufman envelops readers in a hug.  On the front of the jacket the group of children are paired with an elderly couple dancing on the sidewalk on the back.  A neighbor plays her guitar for them.  (The inside of the jacket is a poster.)  On the book case are twelve different buildings occupied by people.  These create four rows of six in a repeating pattern.  The opening endpapers show the new family moving into their home.  The closing endpapers show the community embracing them in celebration.  With every page turn a new aspect of the people and the buildings is presented in a lively, meaningful manner. 

Sal Boat: A Boat by Sal (Abrams Books for Young Readers, August 30, 2022) written and illustrated by Thyra Heder

At the publisher's website, you can view interior visuals.  At Thyra Heder's website is a beautiful display of artwork from this book.  One of the images is close-up elements found on a single page to show passage of time and effort by Sal.

Sal loved the water.
He liked to imagine it moving under his feet.

Wherever Sal went, all he thought about was being on the water.  Sal wanted a boat.  He was without funding, so he had to build a special boat, a boat just for him.  It needed to be a boat unlike any other boat.

He gathered what he could use from his Mom's garage, the local builder, and the marina.  Soon everyone in Sal's town was asking if he was building a boat and handing out advice as well as donated materials.  With a spot for building picked out, Sal got to work doing an assortment of tasks to make a boat.

The boat got bigger and more complicated as Sal's ideas did the same.  He worked for days and days and people began to wonder what kind of crazy boat this was.  Sal kept working on his own until it was done.  Now there was another problem.

How would Sal launch his boat?  Nothing seemed to work.  In his frustration, Sal was ready to smash the boat to bits.  Then . . . the best thing of all happened.  And he was glad he did not do it alone.

As this story unfolds in Thyra Heder's words, we are taken to a seaside town, a town where everyone knows everyone.  We feel the deep desire of Sal to have his own boat built all by himself.  The commentary within the images is fabulous with hints of humor.  Readers will revel in the words detailing all the jobs necessary to build a boat and what he does with the finishing touches.

The pencils and watercolor illustrations of Thyra Heder are breathtaking.  The dust jacket is a panoramic scene of the sea with multiple boats on the water behind Sal working on his boat.  The book case is the triumphant moment when the boat is launched, an interior illustration.  The opening and closing endpapers show first the boats on land covered for the season and second, they are on the water with their covers removed.  The one in the lower, right-hand corner is Sal's boat.  The watercolor washes and loose lines fashion a personal portrait of this boy and of his town.  As a dog lover it is a joy to see his canine companion in many of the scenes.  In a word this book, words and artwork, is enchanting.

Mary Had a Little Plan (Union Square Kids, September 6, 2022) written by Tammi Sauer with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (This is a companion title to Mary Had a Little Glam.)

At the illustrator's website, you can get a peek at some of the interior illustrations. You might want to check out her vivacious Instagram account where she shows you a video of her creation of Mary's hat. At Picture Book Builders, Tammi Sauer talks about the writing of this book and working with Vanessa Brantley-Newton.  Author Tammi Sauer is a guest at Kathleen Temean's Writing and Reading.  She talks about how this book originated.

Mary had a little plan
that spouted on the spot.

It all began the day she passed
a drab abandoned lot.

As soon as she saw that space, she knew exactly what to do.  Back at home, she drew and designed and planned and plotted.  She gathered paint and fabric.  She asked neighborhood businesses for plants, building materials and tools.

She worked and worked all day trying to clean up the trash on that lot before she could put her plan in motion.  She barely made a dent.  Mary did what she did best, she rounded up a crew.

Together, they picked and planted, built and watered.  They painted.  Mary added the finishing touches.  Together they made this lot better, a haven of happiness.

The rhyming, every couplet, by Tammi Sauer is flawless.  It freely flows welcoming readers into Mary's story.  Mary's energy is contagious and transferred to us.  I daresay that during a read aloud, some listeners will probably start to clap or dance.  They will participate by anticipating the second word in the rhyme.  You couldn't ask for anything more.

The artwork of Vanessa Brantley-Newton lifts up this narrative.  Mary's energy is seen in every element in every scene.  Just look at her on the front of the jacket and case.  She is ready to make her plan a reality.  On the opening and closing endpapers is an array of clothing, tools, and materials necessary for Mary to transform this lot.  The final two-page picture is pure joy!


Penguin and Penelope (Bloomsbury Children's Books, September 6, 2022) written and illustrated by Salina Yoon  (This title is the seventh book with Penguin as a character.  Here is a link to my blog post about the sixth book, Penguin's Christmas Wish.  Within that post is a link to the first book, Penguin and Pinecone: A Friendship Story.  Here is a link to two other Penguin books, Penguin on Vacation and Penguin in Love.)

At the author illustrator website, you can view interior illustrations.  There is an activity guide there to download.  This book is featured at author Tara Lazar's Writing for Kids (While Raising Them).

One day, Penguin came
across a little elephant.

Oh no!

Her name was Penelope.

I'm stuck!

Penguin did what any friend would do.  He freed her from the mud, gave her food to eat, water to drink, and a bath.  The next thing Penguin had to do for Penelope was get her back to her herd.  The elephant trail led to a crossing they could not make.

They looked for days to find another trail around the ravine.  They were tired, so they slept.  Time passed.  Penelope got bigger.  Their bond got stronger.  One day at the beach, Penelope gave Penguin an idea.

Penguin led Penelope to the edge of a large body of water, she hesitated but trusted Penguin.  In the water, she felt free.  After swimming they arrived at the other side and spotted a wonderful thing, elephant tracks!  Together they found the herd.  Their affectionate good-byes are truly touching.  You might think this is the end of the story.  It is not.  Penelope and Penguin, friends forever.

Just when you think that Salina Yoon could not create more endearing characters than she already has, she gives us Penelope.  Through this narrative, readers understand that Penguin's heart attracts like hearts.  Her spare text is a blend of narrative and dialogue.  Each sentence leads us to a greater understanding of this duo and the meaning of friendship.

Salina Yoon's illustrations 

created digitally in Adobe Photoshop

are defined by bold, black lines and brilliant colors.  Her characters' facial expressions leave no doubt in the readers' minds as to their current mood.  She has Penguin wearing his signature scarf throughout the story until one particular tender-hearted part.  The three-page gatefold at the end is fantastic!  I wonder if other readers will spy what I spied in that visual.