Quote of the Month

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

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.

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