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.

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