Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Spreading Sunshine

By definition, they shelter us from an abundance of rain or sunshine.  They are unique by design to fold together when not in use.  Sometimes, though, depending on the quality of the ribs and fabric, they may falter in their purpose.

There were many days, windy, wet days in spring and autumn, when on the campus of Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, where umbrellas failed students scurrying from dorm to class, class to class, class to library, and hopefully to the university center.  It was like living in a wind tunnel.  You would be walking with your umbrella only to have the wind turn it inside out; the ribs breaking like toothpicks.

You would see broken umbrellas stuffed in trash cans, or simply thrown down by frustrated travelers.  If you were fortunate, someone with a sturdier device would offer you protection until you reached your destination.  Most of us gave up buying new umbrellas after the third purchase.  But, quite unexpectedly, these portable canopies will offer us something wildly wonderful when we need it the most.  Let's see what happens in The Umbrella (Clarion Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, March 21, 2023) written by Beth Ferry with artwork by Tom Lichtenheld. 



Everyone is tired of rain, day after day.  The grayness of the outside world is seeping into people's homes, minds, and hearts.  Will it ever stop raining?

One small child ventures out with their canine companion.  Whatever the weather, dogs need their outside time.  They make it to cover under the awning of a neighborhood store.  This shop is filled with an eclectic assortment of new and old, familiar and odd items.

Inside one trunk, multiple possibilities are unearthed.  The dog discovers an old, seen-better-days yellow umbrella.  It is free!  As the pair make a mad dash for home in the rainstorm, the umbrella does not survive the wind and rain.  To say the child is disappointed is an understatement, but the duo get cozy in bed for the night.  And it keeps raining . . . for days.

One morning when the child and pup head outside, they are greeted with a huge surprise.  Somethings bloomed where they were planted. A compassionate heart knows what to do with this discovery.

With Beth Ferry's writing we are privy to the power of a single word.  The first seven words in this story stand alone, followed by a period.  To add to the pacing and the adventures of the pup and child, sometimes words are combined as they move from one point to another.  Then, one word at a time, the narrative continues, taking us on a rhyming romp from gray to glad.  Her use of alliteration is perfect.  Here is a passage.




The selection of shades of purple and yellow throughout the book, as first seen on the open and matching dust jacket and book case, is a wonderful choice.  Complementary and contrasting, they provide depth to each image.  On the right side, we see what the child and dog have found in the trunk.  What is it exactly?  What can it be if we use our imaginations?  The rainwater and umbrella are vanished on the jacket.

To the left of the spine, still on a bright white background, is the illustration depicting the dog finding the tattered umbrella in the trunk of the whatnot shop with the child wondering what it is.  On the opening endpapers in a muted lavender, vertical dashes of white signify falling rain.  The rain creates puddles around a sandbox, itself turning into a pond.  A sand shovel is sticking up and a rubber ducky floats in the water.  On the closing endpapers, a vibrant yellow covers the pages.  The child is calling to the dog as they race over a yellow hill toward a rising sun.

Back at the beginning of the book, the first page turn reveals the verso on the left.  In a design genius choice, the rain continues to fall.  With a closer look, we see the long drops of rain in white are the dedication and publication information.  This is brilliant!  To the right, on the title page, the umbrella lays on the floor of the shop.

These illustrations rendered by Tom Lichtenheld

in pencil and watercolor on Stonehenge paper with a bit of Photoshop to put it all together

contain the right amount of humor and details.  Is that someone in a canoe going down the street?  Clothed in a raincoat, a weary but hopeful citizen dreams of sunshine while throwing a coin in an overflowing fountain in the square.  An insect seeks shelter under a broken branch on a hollow tree trunk.  In that hollow trunk, a mother rabbit holds out a paw to check if it is still raining.  Her babies huddle under her.  Inside the shop, the pup glances up at a painting of a group of dogs.  They might be playing poker.  Next to that is another Easter egg.  (Did I just laugh out loud?)

The expressive looks on all the characters' faces skillfully convey every mood.  They are clearly exhausted by this nonstop rainy weather.  They long for change and this child and her pup are agents for that change.  We can feel this building with every page turn.

One of my many favorite images is a single page illustration.  It is when the child and dog make it under the awning over the front of the shop.  Graphite and purple hues color the page.  A loud BOOM!! is shown between dark clouds at the top and the roof of the store.  Thunder!  in white is embedded in the brick upper story.  And Under! is placed in the doorway.  Still on a leash, the dog shakes off the wetness of the rain and the child happily spreads their arms at the success of finding a dry spot.  Rain falls around them and puddles on flat surfaces.

This book, The Umbrella written by Beth Ferry with illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld, is full of delightful revelations.  If readers ever think they are too small to make a difference, this dispels that notion.  One act by one soul can make a difference.  You will want to have a copy of this title in all your collections.  This book is one to gift to others often.  You also might want to be on the lookout for yellow umbrellas.  You never know what can happen with one.

To learn more about Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Tom Lichtenheld has many illustrations from this title at his website.  Beth Ferry has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Tom Lichtenheld has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view the opening endpapers.  You will enjoy this discussion on Publishers Weekly between the creators about who this book honors.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

To The Trees #2

In a movie about a legendary hero and his band of merry men, when under enemy attack one of the patriotic thieves shouts, To the trees!  The trees were a refuge for them and a more strategic vantage point from which to defend themselves. Around the world for centuries, trees equal life for what they supply humans and an array of plants and animals.  I wonder how often throughout time those same three words were uttered by other humans or in the language of birds taking a sudden turn in flight to roost in treetops or of squirrels racing over grass and scampering up tree trunks?

Small or tall, the size is of no importance.  Standing next to a tree offers, for those open to embracing it, a true sense of solitude and strength.  For most of us, they've always been there and hopefully, they always will be.  Two recent publications highlight this almost immortal quality of trees.  In Maple & Rosemary (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, February 28, 2023) written by Alison James with illustrations by Jennifer K. Mann readers are witness to a remarkable friendship.  In the best, truest friendships, you are never apart, but entwined forever.

Once there was a tree who was very lonely.
She was a sugar maple, so she was sweet and lovely.

The evergreens around the sugar maple didn't talk to her because she was different.  One day, something out of the ordinary happened.  This something climbed into her branches, echoing the maple's feelings of loneliness.  The tree spoke, wanting to know who this was and if they would be her friend.  Maple the tree met Rosemary the girl.

As the days passed, Rosemary visited her every day after school.  They taught each other what they knew about their worlds.  As Maple's seeds spun down from her branches, Rosemary planted them.  When Rosemary left, they exchanged the same words.

One day Rosemary didn't come.  Many seasons passed and Maple was lonely in her absence.  Tiny maples sprouted around Maple, but the familiar creatures walked and flew by her without speaking.

Then, in the autumn one year, a young woman came to Maple.  It was Rosemary.  She was a teacher now at the nearby school.  First, she hung a swing from Maple's branches.  When Rosemary returned, she brought a group of happy children.  She showed them all the wonders around the tree and they laughed and swung on the swing.

Maple grew bigger and taller.  Rosemary grew older and shorter.  She still visited Maple but now she came alone with her book, reading aloud to the tree.  During one of the last times, we see Rosemary visit Maple, she tells Maple something.  At first Maple is puzzled, then she realizes the meaning of those words and the power of friendship.

Author Alison James builds her story on what we know of trees, their endurance and their necessity in the continuance of this planet.  She establishes a parallel between a tree and a human, both experiencing their own forms of aloneness.  Using a careful blend of narrative and dialogue, we see a lasting friendship evolve.  The repetition of similar phrases each time they part, strengthens their bond.  What also strengthens their bond is the passage of seasons and the tree's growth.  Regardless of their time apart, as it is chronicled, their affection is as strong as ever.  Here is a passage.

Maple felt the tug on her branch when Rosemary swung back
and forth.  Rosemary laughed and laughed.  Maple's leaves
fluttered with delight.

"You will always have friends when you have a swing,"
Rosemary said.

"But it is a good friend who makes me a swing," said Maple.


with pencil, monotype printmaking, collage, and digital paint, 
all combined in Photoshop

the heartwarming, eloquent artwork for this title by Jennifer K. Mann radiates those qualities when we first see them on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  In full color we see Rosemary reading aloud to Maple on the front, right side.  Here the title text is varnished in a cheery red.

The trunk and tree branches continue flawlessly over the spine and to the left, on the back.  The seasons have changed from spring to winter.  Rosemary is now an elder, leaning on the trunk of Maple, her white hair in a bun.  She is holding a stick Maple dropped from her branches.  It helps her walk.  Readers will see a red fox watching in the meadow as an owl takes flight.  

The opening and closing endpapers are autumn orange.  On the initial title page, rows of evergreens stretch across the top.  The field is filled with snow.  Maple stands in the foreground.  Between her branches, the fox walks through the snow to the right.  On the formal title page, we are brought close to the fox amid the snow and dried out Queen Anne's Lace stems.  In the distance the owl flies through a wintery sky hanging over a nearby pond.

These visuals span two pages, full pages, square-like shapes in groups of four, six, and sixteen on a page and two and three vertical pictures on a page.  The sizes of these illustrations and their varying perspectives enhance the text and the pacing.  They fashion an inescapable emotional mood within the passage of a lifetime.  They capture the beauty of each season.  The fine details in each scene are not fragile but as strong as this relationship.  Readers will be looking in each setting for the fox, owl, and robin.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It is winter.  Rosemary and her students are under the bare branches of Maple, looking up.  They are waving goodbye to her.  Maple's trunk is on the left and the branches, dark gray and snowy, spread to and along the top, left and right sides, and to the bottom of the left side.  

One of the things we need to remember as humans is to maintain a connection to the living things outside our homes, especially trees.  Maple & Rosemary written by Alison James with artwork by Jennifer K. Mann is a wonderful observation on the natural world and how to establish respect and affection for it.  This story defines friendship in a way you will remember long after the covers of this book are closed.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Alison James and Jennifer K. Mann and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Alison James has artwork for you to view from this title on her website.  Alison James has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  Jennifer K. Mann has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.   You can view the title pages at Penguin Random House.

In his newest, expansive wordless endeavor, author illustrator Aaron Becker presents possibilities.  He asks us to examine our beliefs on the relationship between the natural world and humans' place in it.  In this gorgeous, highly detailed presentation of the passage of time, The Tree and the River (Candlewick Press, March 14, 2023), we take a journey unlike any other.

In the beginning, there is the river, winding through tree and shrub studded meadows.  Our attention is drawn to one particular tree, situated on land as the river wraps around it.  With a page turn, our view of that area widens.  A large farm is being constructed of wood on the shore opposite the tree.  We can see the river wind behind this farm and curve to a large ridge of mountains.

We are next brought in closer as the agricultural buildings are expanding and growing in size.  A mill has harnessed the water of the river for its use.  There are more people, adults and children.

Two distinct societies seem to be forming on either side of the river.  On the original side the structures are sturdier and more industrial.  Across the river, this community seems to adhere to the more natural materials and farming.  As pages are turned, there are more and more people, and the modes of transportation are changing.  The buildings are crowding out the land. Walls are built. The two societies are preparing for war.

When we next turn the page, an entire new civilization is before us, perhaps a blend of the two previous peoples and their societies.  The river has been redirected.  Then, we see airships and motor vehicles.  Animals are no longer used for transportation. Lights shine from windows at night. (The landscape scenes are becoming more like steampunk.)  Then, there appear motor vehicles more like automobiles on streets with tree-lined avenues and more individual homes.  

With each page turn now, there are drastic differences.  We go from a space-like scenario to one of flooding and devastation with people only moving about in boats.  The tree is a skeleton of its former self.  Soon, there is no sign of human life.  It is now that Aaron Becker shifts our view of his narrative.  He takes us very close to the tree.  Something remarkable is occurring.


in pencil, gouache, and digital paint

the luminescent, intricate artwork begins on the open dust jacket and open book case.  On the first, we see a pastoral setting with the tree and the river.  Take note though of the reflections in the water.  They foreshadow a possible future.  The title text is varnished on the jacket.  To the left of the spine on a deep cornflower blue canvas is just the tree.  Beneath its branches, a single musician sits and strums an instrument.

On the book case, the image is the same on the left side, the back.  The background is now a deep purple.  This corresponds to what we see on the right side, the front. It is a close up of the tree and the river with a highly advanced society in the background.  The color palette is in shades of purple with glowing lights in the buildings.  This is set against a red, orange, and yellow sky.  An airship floats above a bridge.  This image seems to portray yet another possibility.

The opening and closing endpapers are in two shades of purple.  They show a bird's eye view of the river winding through the natural, untouched landscape, like the rendering of a landscape architect. For the title page, the tree and river are depicted on a single page, close to readers.  With the next page turn, we begin.  Tucked in the lower, left-hand corner is the publication information.  There is also something tucked into the scenery on the far-left side.  What is Aaron Becker trying to tell us?

Readers need to pause at each page turn to study the landscape, the architecture, and the people.  How are they changing their natural surroundings?  What advances in their lives have they made?  Are these beneficial to the land?  Watch how the air becomes different.  How does the color palette shift with the altering landscape?

One of my many favorite illustrations of these double-page pictures is the one between the steampunk setting and the too bright, too busy nearly space-like community.  For this image Aaron Becker uses hues of purple and rust and pink.  Behind the river is a collection of buildings featuring advanced but not too industrial buildings.  There are aqueducts and bridges over bends in the river, which is flowing freely, now.  Vehicles similar to cars move on those aqueducts and bridges.  A boat floats down the river.  There are bicycle riders and a person walking their dog.  Neighbors chat in front of single-family homes.  There is an effort to landscape with trees and shrubs.  In the rosy-skied distance, a plane is either landing or taking off.

This book, The Tree and the River written and illustrated by Aaron Becker, is a marvelous glimpse into the past, present, and future.  It is filled with opportunities for us to question what we believe and to discuss this with others.  Every time I read it; I find something new.  This title will be read over and over.  You will want at least one copy on your personal bookshelves and multiple copies in your professional collections.

To discover more about Aaron Becker and his other work, please access his website by following the link attached to his name.  On his website is the book trailer and a process video.  Aaron Becker has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, and Twitter.  Aaron Becker has written a guest post at the Nerdy Book Club reflecting on visual learners.  You can view an interior image at the publisher's website.  At Penguin Random House, you can view the title page and the first few page turns.  At The Children's Book Review, The Growing Readers Podcast, you can listen to Aaron Becker chat about this book.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Coming Home . . .

For many of us entering a library, whether it's for the public, a school or even our personal collections, it supplies us with a sense of homecoming.  In this space, an infinite number of stories are housed.  They enrich and enlarge our imaginations.  Through them we travel into the past, present, and future with greater understanding and compassion.  These stories give us answers to questions while leading us to more discoveries and answers we didn't even know we desired.  Armed with the truths they provide, our knowledge of our planet and its inhabitants, plant and animal, grows.  Not only does our knowledge grow but so does our admiration for the complexity of intertwined systems functioning every second of every day.

For those of us who have spent most of our adult lives serving patrons of all ages in libraries, we are witness to the remarkable moments when readers are connected to the story they need or want.  We not only listen to them with our minds, but also our hearts.  This is how bridges are built between books and readers.  When that bridge is built, when that connection is forged, something nearly indescribable happens.  We see it in their eyes, their demeanor, and their body posture.  It is joy.  This joy is wonderfully expressed in words by John Schu and in artwork by Lauren Castillo in their first collaboration, This Is A Story (Candlewick Press, March 14, 2023).  This book shows us the power of story, our stories and the stories of others.

This is a word.


That word, sea, is then shown on a page, a page within a book.  That book is one of many on a shelf.  It is waiting on one of many shelves in a library.  (We are beginning small and keep seeing a larger view.)  When we step back farther, there are people in a city, a city with that library.

Some of the people in the city are traveling to the library, seeking help, help in finding answers.  That book, one of many on a shelf of many shelves, is given to a child by a librarian.  So begins the reading.  So begins a special connection.

There are other readers here, finding what they need and finding what they want.  In the pages of the books they read, their minds keep stepping back, (like we do in the beginning of this story) enlarging what is known, imagined, and hoped.  Each of these readers have something else, a valuable something else . . . hearts.  Their hearts will increase in their ability to make connections in the books they are reading and in every facet of their lives.

Walking through the doors of a library is walking into a

world of reading.

Like most seeds, this world starts with the tiniest thing and the youngest person.  An early interest is nurtured and encouraged to flourish.  It is nurtured and encouraged to flourish through a story. 

With intention author John Schu builds his narrative, his poem, from a single word.  He takes us on a journey with that word until the book with that word is placed in the hands of a child by the librarian.  Word, book, reader, and story create an unbreakable and lasting link.

We go from that single reader to other readers, who similarly have questions, ideas, hopes, imaginations that can blossom without limits through reading.  John Schu, then, takes us back to the beginning.  It is here the idea of starting small is reinforced.  Word by word, they are strung together to give us a story.  The final sentence he writes will resonate with every reader and every person who has brought a story to a reader. 

(The text in this book is very precise.  At this point I usually supply readers with a passage from the book, but I will not here.  I do not want to diminish anyone's experience in reading this title.) 

For every time I have seen a child hug a book, or every time I have hugged a book, for the sheer happiness that book brings, the visual on the front, right side of the matching dust jacket and book case, is pure perfection.  This is STORY.  The colors around the child radiate warmth.  Along the bottom they mirror her love of the sea and sea horses.  Her eyes are closed because that is what we do when we are overwhelmed by the joy in a moment.

To the left of the spine on a white background, the girl is carrying an armload of books, followed by her little brother.  He is carrying his beloved stuffed toy cat.  This is a nod to author John Schu's cat, Lou Grant.

When the jacket is removed from the case, readers get a larger glimpse of the meticulous care and exquisite details artist Lauren Castillo brings to this book.  On the underside of the jacket are eleven children, from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, seated in a semi-circle reading.  Our sea horse-loving girl is included. For nearly all the books, we can see enough of the jackets and cases to recognize the titles.  (At this point, you might want to get your magnifying glass and start making a list of titles.  I did.)  One of the boys is wearing a yarmulke.  Another child has a hearing aid.  In bright red under this array of readers are the words HAPPY, HAPPY READING!

That same red covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page is an intimate scene of the little girl's father giving her a library card.  For the dedication page, Lauren Castillo has created a double-page view of the father carrying his son down the stairs of their home.  A cat looks out the window.  Ahead of them on the sidewalk, the little girl walks carrying a sea horse kite and striped bag.

A pure white page supplies the space for the first sentence, opposite a wash of blue green for the word, 
SEA.  Each illustration in this title was rendered

in ink, watercolor, and pastel.

They are single-page pictures and glorious two-page visuals.  We are brought as close as possible to each setting, giving us a personal, participatory experience.  For the words,

This is a book on a shelf . . .

we see the book that is the focus of the first portion of this title.  It is shelved with other like books, many which we can identify. (Readers will see friends here on this shelf, too.)  

Just like the words of John Schu, Lauren Castillo's artwork begins small, growing and increasing our view until a double-page wordless picture features the front of the library.  When we step inside that library with the girl, her father, and brother, we might gasp.  Not only is a librarian looking like John Schu standing there, but along the top of the shelves are books we know and love.  Again, the artwork enhances the words to the point where we believe we are there in every moment written and illustrated.  With each page turn, readers are shown with or around books we have read and enjoyed.  (I started to cry in the visual of a child reading the One and Only Ivan.  Here Lauren Castillo has placed elements from the books above the readers' heads.)

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  Across the top hangs a series of colorful pennants.  On the right side in the background, in shades of golden orange, are three adjoining shelves outlined in darker lines.  In front of them, the librarian is squatting down to be at the level of the girl.  In his hands he holds the book about sea horses.  The child is reaching toward it, knowing he is


her to what she wants and needs.  To the right of them on the floor is the sea horse kite, its string wound around a spool.  

Love of story, books, reading, readers, authors, illustrators, librarians, and libraries is tucked into every page of This Is A Story written by John Schu with artwork by Lauren Castillo.  Like the child on the front of the jacket and case, readers will finish this book and hug it close.  It is most definitely a heartprint book.  It invites discussions about story, books, reading, readers, authors, illustrators, librarians, libraries, and favorite books.  I can't imagine a professional or personal library without a copy on its shelves.

To discover more about John Schu and Lauren Castillo and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  At John Schu's website are two videos about this title.  John Schu has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Lauren Castillo has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vimeo, and YouTube.  The cover is revealed by author, blogger, and teacher librarian Travis Jonker on School Library Journal, 100 Scope Notes, including a chat with the creators.  Through the publisher, author, podcaster, and fifth grade teacher Colby Sharp has prepared a Teacher's Guide.  At The Children's Book Podcast, author John Schu and artist Lauren Castillo chat with Matthew Winner about this title.  At the publisher's website, you can view an interior image.  At Penguin Random House, you can view a series of interior visuals.

UPDATE:  Author Erin Dealey hosts John Schu on her blog with a seven-question series about this book.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Maternal Marvels

With mothers, the best approach is to expect the unexpected, especially concerning their offspring.  Mothers are a study in contrasts.  They may be calm one minute as nurturers and fierce in the next moment as protectors.  They may choose to ignore you or chase you depending on the threat you pose.  They know when to keep their children close and when to set them free. 

They are master pretenders, architects, providers, healers, and transporters.  Authors Heather Lang and Jamie Harper have collaborated to provide readers with the inside scoop on marvelous mothers in Supermoms!: Animal Heroes (Candlewick Press, March 7, 2023) with artwork by Jamie Harper.  These creatures perform remarkable feats to supply the best possible life for their children for as long as necessary.

Supermoms are everywhere.  

Regardless of their species, size, shape or color, mothers are on the job all day and all night.  You'll be surprised at the design ingenuity groundhog moms employ in housing their young.  An underground bathroom?

Did you know emperor penguin females leave for up to two months to get food for their chicks?  Some mothers like the bearded capuchin monkey even feed other monkey babies that are orphaned.  There's nothing quite as strange or amazing as how moms transport their littles.  Baby alligators hitch a ride inside their mother's mouths to the water.

Some mothers move their charges repeatedly to keep them safe.  There is no use giving a predator a head's up by staying in the same place.  Other moms along with female family members can build a wall of bodies around a calf to protect them.  


Have you ever seen a bird pretend to have a broken wing to keep enemies away from a nest?

Animal mothers know every day is an opportunity to teach their children to survive and flourish.  Sea sponges are placed on the end of bottlenose dolphins so they can get food from the bottom of the ocean floor without injuring themselves.  You will never guess how many years an orangutan mom teaches their children to get food, select items to use as tools, and to make their beds in the tops of trees.  Supermoms all around the world are everything the word implies.

Authors Jamie Harper and Heather Lang filled this title with facts and fun.  For each of five supermom specialties, they highlighted at least three animals for a total of eighteen creatures featured.  The fun is added in all the commentary by the youngsters and their mothers shown in speech bubbles.  For example, a red-knobbed hornbill mother uses mud and poop to stuff the entrance to the nest to protect her eggs and chicks.  This is what we read in the commentary.

P. U.!

Some fresh air
would be nice.

Or a fan.

Using traditional and digital collage Jamie Harper begins to entertain, engage, and educate readers on the open and matching dust jacket and book case.  Not only do we see the giraffe mom doing what she does best to protect her young, (They really do kick.) but other animals are supplying us with alliterative comments as well as the younger giraffe.  These full-color illustrations here, placed in panels, are a preview of the artwork throughout the book.  A variety of sizes of panels is used.  On the jacket, the panels are varnished.

To the left of the spine, on the back, using the same polka-dotted green canvas, we read the words in yellow,


Above the words are three animal moms bursting forth from a cloud of orange and a yellow and blue-dotted star.  Their facial looks are determined, and their stances are definitely heroic.

The opening endpapers are two tones of a gold-dotted pattern with darker and larger golden spaces.  On the closing endpapers is a green background with white dots and darker and larger green spaces.  These could easily be the replication of skins of animals.  On a crisp white background, three animal children are commenting about an animal flying over their heads.  This is the two pages for the title page information.

With a page turn, a two-page image greets readers.  Here all eighteen of the moms are spread across yellow rays shooting across both pages.  It is as if we are reading a superhero comic.  This is followed by a series of illustrations ranging in sizes from two pages to two smaller panels on a page and to a full-page visual.  Sometimes there are three panels to a page.  The collection and combination of panels may be squares and/or rectangles, vertically or horizontally placed.

All the animals are lively, portrayed with typical characteristics and others are exaggerated to enhance their remarks.  These creatures are placed in appropriate environments.  At times we are given a more wide-angle view of their lives and other times, we are brought closer to them.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a two-page picture.  On a ruddy background, from a slightly bird's-eye view, across most of the two pages, nine large female elephants have formed a tight circle around a baby elephant.  They are facing outward, trunks raised.  In the left-hand, lower corner a female lioness is rethinking her objective.  One of two birds on the back of one of the elephants says,

Poor guy . . .

The young elephant with huge, open eyes says,

Is this really necessary?

When laughter and fun are attached to learning, that learning tends to be remembered.  Supermoms!: Animal Heroes written by Heather Lang and Jamie Harper with illustrations by Jamie Harper does both superbly.  At the close of the book, two pages are dedicated to providing further information about the superpowers of each of the eighteen animals.  These extra facts are certain to promote more study.  On another page are lists of children's books, online resources, audiovisual resources, authors' websites, and acknowledgements.

To learn more about Heather Lang and Jamie Harper and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  There are a lot of extra resources for this title at Heather Lang's website.  Heather Lang has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Jamie Harper has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At Penguin Random House, you can view interior images.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Taking A Moment

Sometimes, we forget to look beyond ourselves.  We fail to seek what might be hidden from our immediate viewpoint.  In these situations, one of the best alternatives is to step outside and embrace what the outdoors might offer.  If you are fortunate, take your canine companion with you.  They give new meaning to a walk on the wild side with all their senses on high alert.

More times than not, they suddenly stop.  It's in these moments our outlook shifts.  We see, hear, or smell something we might otherwise miss.  Beneath (Little, Brown and Company, January 17, 2023) written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld is about looking with new eyes.  It is about opening up our minds and hearts in order to understand the wholeness of someone or something.  This is when we are our best selves.  This is when life is richer and larger.

Finn was in a horrible mood.
Grandpa wanted to talk about it.

When you are in a horrible mood, talking is the last thing you want to do, and Finn was no different.  Grandpa suggested they take a walk.  Finn agreed, reluctantly, as long as staying under the quilt was an option.

This is when Grandpa suggested that even though Finn was hidden, he would remember what he could not see.  Walking among the trees, Finn listened as Grandpa explained there was as much underground as there was above ground.

It was the same for a boat they saw floating on the calm water.  What was moving underneath that boat?  At times, we can make a guess as to what we cannot see, but sometimes we wonder what is being seen, heard or smelled by another animal.  Why are they doing what they are doing?  Why is the fox's nose pointed toward a hole in the ground?

What we see on the outside is only a portion of what might be happening on the inside.  This is true for plants, animals, and humans.  (Do you think it's true for other things like the moon, planets, and stars?)  Last season's leaves are dying, but beneath them new shoots are sprouting.  As daylight turns to dusk and the moon rises, Grandpa offers his final beneath words.  We know Finn tucks these away like the treasure they are because of the reply given. 

As you read these words penned by Cori Doerrfeld, one of the first things you think of is how wonderful it would be to have walked with Finn and Grandpa.  And then, with gratitude, you realize that every time you open the covers of this book, you are there with them on that walk.  We can read their heartfelt and sincere conversations, ponder what they are saying, and wonder about all the beneaths in our world.

With the exception of a few sentences, this entire story is told in dialogue.  This helps readers to connect with Grandpa and Finn on a personal level.  Here is a passage.

"And people?" Finn wanted to know. (page turn)

"Of course!" Grandpa answered.
"Everyone is more than what you see.

"Beneath appearances
are experiences.  . . .

Using digital paint, Cori Doerrfeld created the images for this title beginning with the open dust jacket.  Here, on the front, Finn is strolling through the forest, using the beloved quilt as a hooded coat.  Moss speckles tree trunks as a squirrel and blue jay move and rest above ground.  Beneath Finn's feet is another world of tunnels for chipmunks, a mouse, and food. 

The illustration moves flawlessly over the spine to continue on the back of the jacket.  The tunnels underground continue as homes and pathways for mice, chipmunks and a frog.  Above them, Grandpa travels between the trees with his walking stick.

On the book case, the seasons have passed.  It is now winter.  On the right side, the front, Finn, happily, with open arms is turning to speak with companions.  Behind Finn, are Grandpa and Gramma, holding hands on the left side.  This time Gramma is holding the walking stick.  Snow frosts the surroundings and blankets the ground.

On the opening endpapers is a close-up of a portion of Finn's quilt.  We can see the patterns and prints in the squares.  They contain items from the outdoors in bright, cheerful colors.  On the closing endpapers is the underside of the quilt in squares of blue.  On the left in several of the squares is what we would normally see on the verso page.  On one of the squares in the lower, right-hand corner is a hand-stitched message.  

to Finn

The pictorial story begins on the title page with a double-page visual.  Beneath a wedding picture of grandfather and grandmother is a sewing machine.  Grandpa is peeking into the bedroom.  Finn is a bump on the bed, totally covered by the quilt.  Through the subsequent double-page and full-page pictures from various perspectives with cut-aways, Grandpa's and Finn's conversations are brought to life.

As they move through the forest, Finn starts to uncover more and more from the quilt.  When Finn asks Grandpa to keep walking, the quilt is removed and wrapped around Grandpa's shoulders.  In the final scene, as they are seated under the stars, they are wrapped together in the quilt.

The facial features on Finn, Grandpa, and the other characters will engage readers.  The details in each scene ask us to pause and think like Finn.  What exactly is beneath us and others at any one time?

One of my many favorite illustrations is a two-page picture.  On the left side, Grandpa and Finn are looking up as we look down at them.  They are placed between a leafy branch and leaves along the top.  On the right side, close to us, is a bird sitting on a nest snug among another kind of tree and its branches.  In a cutaway, we see four tiny eggs in the nest. (The bird might be a cardinal or a cedar waxwing.)

All of us can use a hug when the wrong sort of mood moves into our day.  This book, Beneath written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld, is exactly the kind of hug we need.  It asks us to rethink our mood and appreciate that which we cannot see.  This title is certain to promote discussions about our relationships to each other and the world around us.  I highly recommend you place a copy in your professional and personal collections.  

To learn more about Cori Doerrfeld and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Cori Doerrfeld has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, Victoria Stapleton talks in a video with Cori Doerrfeld about her artwork in this title.  

Sunday, March 12, 2023

There's Magic In The Melody

We are time travelers when notes from a certain song reach our ears.  Those notes take us back to people, places, and events.  We remember where we were, who we were with, and how those songs were sung or played for us.  In this respect, music is magic.  It is everywhere if we listen.

It whistles through the masts of "on the hard" sailboats in winter.  It splashes on the sandy shore when waves roll across the lake.  It floats from branch to branch when chickadees and cardinals call to each other in the morning.  For this reason, music is a bridge, too, between us and what surrounds us daily as well as to our past. Bravo, Little Bird! (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, February 21, 2023) written by Annie Silvestro with artwork by Ramona Kaulitzki is the heartwarming story of an old man and the bond his music makes with a bird.  Their relationship transcends death in a truly beautiful tribute to the power of music, family, and friendship.

The old man and his wife lived high on a hill.  Each
day, notes from the old man's piano drifted out the
window, down the hill, and into the valley below.

A small bird, Little Bird, heard every note.  Those notes lead her from the valley to the old man's window.  She built her nest outside that window.  Soon Little Bird joined the old man in making music.  The old man exclaimed,

Bravo, Little Bird!

Each day Little Bird would serenade the old man playing on his piano as the old woman painted next to her husband.  Before long, a boy, the couple's grandson, came for a visit.  When introduced to him, Little Bird sang a celebratory tune.

The house on the hill was filled with melodies as the grandson learned everything he could about making music from his grandfather. Little Bird warbled and the old woman hummed along.  Where do you think all this music went?  It whirled around on currents of air, winding down to the valley.

During this time, Little Bird had three babies, the boy grew bigger, and the old man grew older.  The boy played the piano in his grandfather's place as Little Bird and her babies sang.  One morning there was no music except for a single sorrow-filled note by Little Bird.  Little Bird, her babies, the boy and his grandmother simply did not have the heart for making music.

Down in the valley, a cardinal missed the music.  Traveling to the hilltop, the cardinal heard from Little Bird about what happened.  Curious from this encounter, Little Bird flew to the valley.  What she heard there, gave her an idea.  In the evening, the boy and his grandmother stepped outside, hearing a symphony of sound, all the music, all the songs, previously played by the old man.  It was enchanting!  (Who do you think made that music?)

Like your favorite pleasant place or cozy comforter, the words in this story penned by Annie Silvestro wrap around you and send your soul soaring. She uses alliterative word combinations and repeating phrases to fashion a welcoming cadence. Whenever an individual masters a musical melody, the word 


is used as praise and encouragement.  The right amount of dialogue is blended into the narrative to make the story more intimate for readers.  Here is a passage.

The old man played joyful, jolly music.
Sad, soulful music.
Beautiful, bountiful, breathtaking music.
All the while the old woman listened
and hummed as she painted beside him.

On the right side, the front of the open and matching dust jacket and book case, we see Little Bird, the boy and his grandfather.  They are enveloped in a swirl of musical notes, one of the many songs played by Grandfather on his piano.  One man, an old man, and his music reshaped the hearts of the residents of the hillside and valley.  As this image suggests, it began with Little Bird and the boy.  The title text is raised to the touch and embossed in foil.

To the left of the spine, a smaller circular illustration is placed on a canvas of palest green, almost a  cream.  It is of the boy with outstretched arms, dancing.  Little Bird's babies fly and sing around him.  The background in the circular picture is a pale green.

A sky-blue hue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  On the initial title page, Little Bird sings a melody which loops around the title text.  On the formal title page, verso and dedication pages, musical notes dip and wrap around the text.  They come from a song being played by Grandfather on his piano on the right page of the two pages.

These visuals by Ramona Kaulitzki

rendered digitally in Photoshop,

span two pages or full pages, edge to edge or surrounded by liberal amounts of white space.  They are highly animated, uplifting, and feature a merry mix of human and animal residents of the valley.  Readers will pause after page turns to notice all the delicate details.

One thing which I find comforting and intentional is the clothing worn by the old man, the old woman, and their grandson.  It does not change throughout the book.  Neither does that of the other residents in the valley.  I believe this brings the humans closer to the showcased animals who do not change their feathers or fur.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a full-page picture placed on a crisp white canvas.  Little Bird is poised at the top of the pages singing.  Notes loop from her, go around the old man playing at his piano on the right, and the old woman, painting toward the bottom of the page under Little Bird.  The old woman is painting a picture of Little Bird on a leafy branch.  Each of these individuals is content and happy.

We can never have enough hope in our lives.  Hope is held in the pages of Bravo, Little Bird! written by Annie Silvestro with illustrations by Ramona Kaulitzki.  In this title, hope is carried on the notes of shared music.  Use this book for a study on the power of music to weave stories, stories that never end.  It should have a place on your personal and professional bookshelves.

To discover more about Annie Silvestro and Ramona Kaulitzki and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Annie Silvestro has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Ramona Kaulitzki has accounts on Behance, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view the open dust jacket and multiple interior images.  At author Tara Lazar's Writing For Kids (While Raising Them), the cover was revealed. 

Friday, March 10, 2023

Weathering The Weather

Sometimes the beginning is as subtle as a change in the air.  It feels a bit charged or heavier or both.  The breeze gets a bit stronger.  Looking skyward, the shape of clouds and their color is quickly transforming.  A disturbance is threatening.

Birds gather near the shore or in trees.  In the distance, rumbling begins as the sky darkens.  Writer Laura Purdie Salas and artist Elly MacKay collaborate to vividly portray this usually sudden shift in the weather in Zap! Clap! Boom!: The Story Of A Thunderstorm (Bloomsbury Children's Books, February 28, 2023).

Sunny day sits warm and dry.
No wind,
no rain,
no stormy sky.

Morning's calm.
Outside is still.
A blue forever day,

until . . .

Without us being aware, warmer air is moving upward toward the cooler clouds.  They start to fill and get larger, gathering overhead.  In the distance loud sounds partner with gray skies and blowing winds.  Spears of light fork downward in the distance.

Rumbles roll through the air, shattering any remaining silence.  Rain begins to drop, slow at first, then faster.  The breeze is now a howling wind.  The sounds are nearly deafening.

Shelter is sought and shelter is found.  Children snuggle inside, safe from the tumult.  The thunder shakes the walls, the lightning flashes on and off, the wind sings like a banshee, and the rain pounds on the windows.

Then, after what seems like minutes (or sometimes longer), the thunderstorm moves to cast its chaos on another place.  Those on the inside slowly venture to the outside, savoring the clear air, the rain-washed spaces and calming breaths of air.  Everything feels new.  Let's play!

The writing, the poetry, of Laura Purdie Salas has entertained and educated us for more than two decades.  In this title her rousing rhythms woven with words move through the pages like a thunderstorm.  They begin and end with a soothing quiet, coming to a crescendo in the center with the title words repeated three different times.  Laura Purdie Salas uses poetic techniques, rhyme, metaphor, and alliteration, like a master.  Here is a passage.

Swollen clouds begin to drain,


In looking at the open and matching dust jacket and book case, readers feel the full force of the thunderstorm on the front, right side.  Trees bend in the wind and rain diagonally cuts across the view.  Dark clouds release roaring thunder and jagged lightning. We wonder how the residents of the hilly island are surviving.  

To the left of the spine, on the back, we see the left side of the island in a closer view as the storm lessens and moves away.  The breeze is still brisk, but the sky is beginning to lighten.  The land seems to be holding its breath.

On the opening endpapers, we are given a panoramic perspective of the top of the island.  Three children play with a red ball.  The land, trees, shrubs, and homes are kissed with morning sunlight.  Bathed in deeper hues of golden yellow, the same scene shows the aftermath of the wild weather on the closing endpapers. The children stand, this time, together as silhouettes.  The ball is at the feet of one of them.

A two-page picture supplies a background for the verso and title page text.  A small barn is tucked at the base of a series of rocky slopes.  Traversing those slopes, as the sun rises, are a goat and two leaping kids.

Each of the full-color double-page images in this book portrays three children and three goats on this island pleasantly enjoying the company of each other.  In subsequent page turns we see what the goats are doing separately before, during and after the thunderstorm.  When the children are running toward home, the goats are running toward their shelter.  As the goats look out the front of their barn during the storm, the children peer out the window of their home at the wind and rain.

These illustrations by Elly MacKay were 

created three dimensionally with layers of paper.

This artistic style gives a realistic and fluid motion to the children and goats as they are placed in each setting.  The color palette alters to indicate the path of the thunderstorm and how it is reflected in the children and the goats.  The results of this illustrator's skill fashion an immersive experience for readers.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the children are running home and the rain starts to fall.  The trio are jumping in puddles and leaping over the wet ground.  Behind the figures the dark clouds on the left appear to be chasing them as the sky is a blend of blue and purple hues.  The rain falls in streaks toward a pebbled surface with pools of water forming.  We are close to the children and can see their delight in this moment.

For those of us who live in areas with four distinct seasons, this book, Zap! Clap! Boom!: The Story Of A Thunderstorm written by Laura Purdie Salas with illustrations by Elly MacKay features a wonderfully true portrayal.  For those who have never experienced a thunderstorm, you will do so in the pages of this book.  At the close of the book is a section titled The Science Behind Storms.  It is divided into three sections, Here Comes The Rain, Lighting Up The Sky, and Boom!  Following this is a short list of Selected Sources and websites, time-lapse videos and books for further exploration.  For a study of seasons, weather, and poetry, this book will be a welcome addition on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Laura Purdie Salas and Elly MacKay and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  At Laura Purdie Salas's website there is a book trailer, an activity sheet to download, and a video of a Minnesota lightning storm. You will enjoy reading about Elly MacKay's process featured at her website. Laura Purdie Salas has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.  Elly MacKay has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and TwitterAt the publisher's website, you can view interior pages.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Just Reach Out

The thing about being outdoors is that in a matter of minutes something wild can happen.  We are surrounded by the possibility of sensory situations.  We can either seize these moments when they appear or dread the prospect of this occurrence.

The same can be said of any situation in which we find ourselves, regardless of where we are.  We might be nervous or worried, but once we are in that moment, if we are doing something we love, everything and everyone else disappears.  That passion we hold close to our hearts is released.  Something Wild (Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, February 28, 2023) written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan connects to that apprehension all of us feel at times.  It shows us how that apprehension is transformed into something unexpectedly marvelous.

Ever since she was small, Hannah
loved to play her violin.

To hear the music she made, sent Hannah's heart soaring.  But . . . Hannah did not want to play her violin in front of anyone else.  The day of her recital Hannah was so afraid to stand on a stage with an audience spread before, her heart's desire was for 

something wild

to appear and save her.

Before she even left the house, in her mind's eye, she dreamed a group of special someone's would sweep in on a breeze and steal her recital clothing.  Or perhaps, a colony of rabbits would leap through a hole in the floor near the kitchen and whisk away her violin.  You cannot be in a recital without a violin.

Unfortunately, neither of those things happened.  On the way to the recital with her family, Hannah kept wishing.  Nothing rose from the watery fountain either.  

Now behind the curtain at the recital, Hannah was next.  On the stage, her fear blossomed.  Hannah and her violin were a perfect match. (When you love something, sometimes that love guides you.)  And in that moment, every draw of the bow on strings

since she was small

created a remarkable memory.

First, author Molly Ruttan helps us to understand Hannah's love of making music on her violin.  It is a lifelong passion.  Then, with adept descriptions, she reveals her true fear of playing on stage.  Using a series of repetitive phrases, we experience her lively imagination and the subsequent disappointment three times.  This cadence binds us in a universal experience with Hannah.  We identify deeply with her.  This leads us to rejoicing at the exuberant ending.  Here is a passage.

It was almost time to leave.
Every time Hannah thought about
being on stage, her stomach lurched!
She felt a little queasy.

If only something wild would happen . . .

How can you look at the open and matching dust jacket and book case and not smile?  The child playing her violin is joyful amid creatures from the wild.  They look as if they are finding pleasure in her music.  Next, readers will be wondering how a dolphin, rabbit and blue birds are together as this girl shines under a spotlight.  

To the left of the spine, on the back, curls of waves continue with the dolphin's tale held high.  Rocks form a base beneath the water.  On the far left is another tree.  Peeking around the trunk is another rabbit.

In golden and white lines on a paler golden background, dolphins and smaller fish swim, rabbits leap, and birds glide.  Careful readers will also see other objects important to the story.  On the title page, a small illustration between text shows a very young Hannah trying to pull away from her mother's hand to stay and listen to a street musician play his violin.

These images by artist Molly Ruttan were

brought to life with charcoal, pastel, acrylic paint, and digital media.

Their sizes, full pages, edge to edge or surrounded by significant white space, mirror Hannah's moods while leading us to luminescent double-page visuals.  Just as Hannah wishes for something out of the ordinary to happen, readers will see a circle of light forming around the very thing she craves.  Humor abounds in the reactions of the characters when the 

something wild

takes place in her imagination.

Careful readers will see that while Hannah is focused on the upcoming recital, other stories are genuinely taking place around her.  I believe readers, unlike Hannah initially, will love to look at the audience and see what everyone is doing.  A gorgeous, wordless two-page picture will have readers cheering.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  Hannah is standing near the bottom of a staircase after wishing for 

something wild.

To her left, in the kitchen area, her family including the dog are aghast at what they are seeing in front of them on the right side of the visual.  A family photograph and a picture near the sink on the walls are askew.  The father was thrown the tickets to the recital in the air.  The only one enjoying the ruckus is the baby seated in a highchair. A group of animals have captured the violin in its case and are stealing it away.

After every reading of Something Wild written and illustrated by Molly Ruttan, I cannot help myself.  I am smiling. My heart is filled with joy for this girl and anyone who has felt the jitters or outright fear before performing or speaking to a group.  A lot of readers will be empathetic to her situation and will laugh out loud at her beautiful creativity.  This book is certain to promote lively discussions.  Please be sure to place a copy in your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Molly Ruttan and her work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Molly Ruttan has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.  There is a book trailer for you to view and share with others. This book is celebrated at author illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi's site, author Vivian Kirkfield's site, Good Reads With Ronna and writer and illustrator Jena Benton's site.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Both Are Needed

My best friend has four legs with four paws, shiny chocolate brown fur and a sense of hearing that can differentiate between the sound of the opening of the refrigerator fruit, vegetable, or cheese drawers.  When expressing joy she zooms like a roadrunner in the house or yard, leaps like a gazelle through snow drifts, and jumps straight up in the air off her four paws.  She is not much of a conversationalist, but she knows I know what every sigh, whimper, bark, and pointed look means.

In moments of quiet and aloneness, I have witnessed some remarkable occurrences, but nothing is as welcome as the sound of her claws clicking on tile or wood floors to find me or the jingle of her collar tags as she walks or runs next to me. In Sometimes It's Nice To Be Alone (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, February 14, 2023) written by Amy Hest with illustrations by Philip Stead readers are soothed by the contentment of being alone and awakened to the joy of shared experiences.  Rhythmic text presents the solace found in ordinary activities but also elevates those through imagination coupled with exquisite artwork.

Sometimes it's nice to 
be alone.

Just you, eating your
cookie, alone.

On the other hand if unexpectedly a friend appears, eating a cookie with them is really quite nice.  What if you happen to be reading a book alone and suddenly you are not alone?  It is a different feeling to be reading a book with a friend there.  It is as if you both have stepped into the pages of the story.

Do you remember days when it is just you outside tumbling on the grass, somersaulting to your heart's content?  Then a voice asks to tumble with you.  You and your friend are now a team of tumblers.

Head down and legs and feet pumping, you might be bicycling up, up and up hills all alone. With arms stretched out and feet kicking, you might be dancing among a whirlwind of colorful leaves in the autumn all alone.  When a friend is with you, the downward slope is more thrilling and the fall frolic is more exhilarating.

Doing something alone is one kind of special.  Doing the same thing with a friend is another kind of wonderful.  What will you do alone next?

The writing in this book by Amy Hest is marvelous.  The title text begins each lyrical portion.  This is followed by a description each time of what the child is doing.  We then read the question about the appearance of a friend.  Each reply to this question begins with the same seven words.  This establishes a cadence and participatory invitation to readers.

The mastery of this writing is that certain words are altered as the narrative progresses.  The descriptions become more vivid and sensory.  Here is a passage.

Just you, alone, on a 
seaside walk, making
big footprints, and heel
and toe prints, at the 
edge of the choppy sea.

The pictorial interpretation of the text by artist Philip Stead is superb.  We are introduced to his limited color palette on the open dust jacket.  His use of  primary colors here is at once strikingly ordinary and remarkable in their depictions. (The sky, sea, and sand continue on the other side of the spine.)   

The presentation of the sky in blue and white gives the perception of the white being either clouds or sea birds.  The added elements of the footprints leading from left to right and the handprints on the sand castle create an air of innocence and sheer happiness in spending a day at the beach.  On the left side a red and yellow and blue and white beach ball rests in the sand.  The title text is varnished.

The book case is identical to the dust jacket without any text on the front or the back.  The opening and closing endpapers are the golden color of the sand.  Beneath the text on the title page, a golden butterfly tinged with purple has been placed.

These two-page visuals by Philip Stead were rendered 

entirely by hand using monoprinting techniques.

As the story progresses, we can see by the clothing worn by the girl that the seasons are shifting.  We begin in spring and end in winter.  Hints are featured in the first picture about the form the friend will assume in the second picture.  These second illustrations are highly and delightfully ingenious.

Philip Stead also initially puts his own signature spin on 

pushing and panting
to the top of each hill.

and in the sea scenario.

He does this, too, when showcasing the friend with the girl in the autumn leaves.  I love what the friend is holding in their mouth.  I think readers will gasp at the one vertical image.  And I believe readers will sigh and perhaps shout aloud knowingly at the final illustration.

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the girl is somersaulting in the grass in the morning.  Mid tumble on the right side, we see her wearing her red and white striped short-sleeved shirt.  Her bare feet are kicking her over as her hands brace the roll.  Bluebells decorate the grass.  Above her on a white canvas is the butterfly we saw on the title page.  Her feet do cross the gutter to the left.  Under the text and in the grass on the left side is a stuffed toy whale.  The girl's red and white striped socks are laying across the whale.

With every reading you will be more endeared to the book, Sometimes It's Nice To Be Alone written by Amy Hest with illustrations by Philip Stead.  This is a magical pairing of writing and artwork.  Listeners will request this to be read again and again.  There will be discussions about what we enjoy doing alone and who might appear to share it with us.  I highly recommend you include this title in all your collections.

To learn more about Amy Hest and Philip Stead and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Amy Hest has an account on Instagram.  Philip Stead shares an account with his wife, Erin Stead, on Instagram.  At the publisher's website are activity sheets to download.