Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

For the Elders . . .,

At the beginning of this year in an effort to highlight as many wonderful books as possible in posts before the ALA Youth Media Awards, I included seven titles under the word Elder in the second of three posts for fiction picture books These books focus on relationships between the generations, mainly between grandparents and their grandchildren. They revolve around a generational tradition, the passing of seasons and those with whom we share them, customs and food in different countries, how finding the perfect gift reveals more about the giver than the recipient, activities shared with all kinds of grandparents, the wisdom of grandparents and how it seems magical, and returning joy to a grandparent who needs to remember.

In March and April of this year, two more outstanding books showcasing grandmothers and their grandchildren speak to our collective minds and hearts.  Despite the recent return of winter in the upper Midwest, daffodils, tulips, delphiniums, and peonies are poking through the soil, eager to add color to our landscape.  Parsley, dill, thyme, sage, and chives are thriving in the vegetable and herb gardens.  Author Jordan Scott and artist Sydney Smith have collaborated again to bring us My Baba's Garden (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, March 7, 2023).  Memories of Jordan Scott's grandmother grace the pages of this book, lovingly lifted in tribute by the luminescent images by Sydney Smith.

My Baba lives in a chicken coop beside a highway.

Her home is near a sulfur mill, a pile of yellow as a testament.  Every morning his father drives the child to Baba's home.  She does not greet him, but each morning there she is in her kitchen.  She cooks, moving with her own rhythm within the small space.

Every place around the kitchen table is filled with preserved food from her garden.  When Baba brings him breakfast, it is the same each morning.  She does not eat, but if the child should happen to drop any food, she picks it up, kisses it and puts it back in his bowl.  They speak through gestures, a few words, and a shared affection.  

If it's raining when Baba walks with her grandson to school, she moves slowly watching for worms.  She picks them all up and places them in a jar with dirt.  They will find a new home in her garden.  After school, her grandson watches her place them in the dirt of her garden, explaining their purpose to him.

This goes on for years until Baba leaves her chicken coop to live with her grandson and his parents.  A building replaces the chicken coop, but the garden remains, now overgrown without Baba's care.  Before school, her grandson feeds Baba the same thing each morning.  He has planted some seeds in a pot on her windowsill.  One day when it's raining, she clasps his hand and draws a familiar line on his palm.  Remembering other rainy days, he runs outside.

Lovely similes are woven into vivid descriptive text by Jordan Scott taking readers into his warm remembrances.  Each place the child is with his grandmother, her kitchen, walking with her to and from school, sometimes in the rain, her garden, and in his home, are replete with intimate details. We become that child, experiencing their love built on those shared activities.  Here are several sentences from different portions of the narrative.

My Baba hums like
a night full of bugs
when she cooks.

We don't talk very much. She points and I nod;
she squeezes my cheeks and I laugh.

Using watercolor and gouache, artist Sydney Smith brings us deeply into this story.  On the front of the open dust jacket Baba and her grandson are shown walking into Baba's garden.  Do you notice how the characters and the larger flowers are outlined in white?  It's as if we are walking with them.  This image crosses the spine, extending to the left edge of the back flap. (The front also extends to the edge of the right flap.)  Two birds are flying over the garden.  The sulfur hill juts up in the far left, upper corner.  Text on the back showcases praise for I Talk Like A River

On the book case, on either side of the spine are two framed portraits.  On the left, seated at his Baba's kitchen table is the boy.  Hands resting in his lap he looks at us.  An apple from his grandmother's garden sits on the table.  Garlic bulbs woven together hang from the ceiling over a basket of fruit.  The play of sun and shadow is stunning.  On the right side is Baba.  She, too, is seated in her home.  To her right are shelves of dishes.  To her left is a table holding a jug with flowers. Bright sunlight glows all around her.  She sits straight in the chair, her hands resting in her lap.  Her face reflects her survival of World War II and living a simple, hard life in Canada where she and her husband emigrated from Poland.

The opening and closing endpapers are a golden, orange yellow.  Sydney Smith begins his pictorial story on the title page, displaying the grandson and his father getting into the car in the dark hours of morning before the sun rises.  He then, with a double-page picture, continues as they drive along the sea on a highway.  This provides a place for the publication information and the author's note titled, My Baba.

The next two-page picture is a drawing the grandson has made of him and his Baba in front of her house.  Two-page images, full-page visuals, edge to edge and some with wide white borders bring readers into the shared days of Baba and her grandson.  Sometimes to show the passage of time and to enhance the pacing, smaller illustrations will be grouped on a single page.  These represent cherished personal moments.  Sometimes, they only show eyes, hands or a portion of a body.

There are seven wordless pictures of varying sizes on four pages near the end of the book.  They represent the grandson taking and sharing breakfast with Baba.  They are tender and extremely touching.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a two-page image.  It is a wide-angle view of Baba's kitchen as sunlight streams in the window over her sink.  She stands on the right side working at the counter, dishes displayed in open cupboards above her.  Kettles steam on the stove to her right.  On the left, we see her refrigerator, more cupboards, and shelves filled with preserved food.  Warmth radiates from this scene.

This is a book for all ages.  With each reading, My Baba's Garden written by Jordan Scott with illustrations by Sydney Smith will be more endeared to each reader.  It will help us to recall our own memories of our grandmothers or if we have none, how wonderful to be able to share those found in this book.  You will want to have at least one copy of this title on your professional bookshelves and one in your personal collection.

To learn more about Jordan Scott and Sydney Smith and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Sydney Smith has artwork from this title on his website.  Jordan Scott has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Sydney Smith has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website is an educator's guide.  At Penguin Random House, you can view the title and verso pages.  At Mel Schuit's Let's Talk Picture Books, she has a short video of the book case reveal. 

Have you ever searched for buried treasure?  Did you ever find something unexpected and wonderful when you were turning over dirt for a vegetable or flower garden or planting a tree?  Have you ever buried something, hoping to dig it up years later?  If you did bury something, what did you or would you put inside the container?  In The Red Tin Box (Chronicle Books, April 4, 2023) written by Matthew Burgess with artwork by Evan Turk, a young girl buries a red tin box early one morning just before sunrise.  This is a secret she will hold in her heart for decades.

On her eighth birthday, when the sun
was peeking over the treetops

    and everyone in the house
    was still asleep,

Maude stepped outside
and across the wet grass
to the edge of the woods.

There was a special spot at the base of the tree where she buried that red tin box.  No one else but Maude knew what was inside the box.  No one else heard Maude speak a promise to herself.

Maude grew up.  Soon she had a daughter of her own.  Maude always remembered the red tin box, even if her memories of the items inside faded.

Now a grandmother, Maude felt something stir inside her one autumn afternoon.  She picked her granddaughter up from school the next day.  In Maude's red pickup truck, they traveled several towns away.  Maude told her Eve about the red tin box and the promise she made as a little girl.  When they arrived at Maude's old home, the dogwood tree was still there.

Would they find the red tin box?  Both were eager to discover it and see what was inside.  Maude walked until she was sure she was standing on the special spot.  The duo dug and dug and dug until they heard a 


For each of the seven items inside, there were stories.  Eve listened and questioned as Maude talked all the way home. Do you know what Maude did when they arrived home?  Eve knew what to do and she did it under the starry sky.

Each word written by Matthew Burgess fashions an eloquent atmosphere of a special place and time.  There is a bit of mystery and magic in finding the spot for burying the red tin box and the whispered words by Maude.  It returns when Maude is a grandmother, and she knows she needs to take Eve to the red tin box's site.  This shared event is beautifully represented with reminiscent phrases as the pair travel to the dogwood tree.  Matthew Burgess uses repetition to elevate the feeling of an unbreakable bond between grandmother and granddaughter.  Here is a passage.

One November afternoon,
Maude was seized with a feeling---

a feeling like a bright spring sunrise.

Rendered in gouache, these breathtaking visuals by Evan Turk are first shown to readers with a single illustration on the dust jacket spanning from left to right, across the spine.  There we see how night is turning into day, as the sun pushes back the darkness with pinks and oranges and reds.  Little eight-year-old Maude has dug the hole near the dogwood tree and is gently placing the red tin box inside.  I don't know about you, but the mystery and magic in this illustration envelope me.  

On the book case, Evan Turk takes us into the branches of the dogwood tree.  Their blossoms and boughs are highlighted by the blushing sunrise sky behind them.  The opening and closing endpapers are a deep red with darker hints . . . like a red tin box.  On the initial title page, the light text is placed in a starry sky with clouds.  On the formal title page, it is still dark outside.  The blossoms on the dogwood tree are depicted in hues of purple, blue, pink, and red.

The color palette by Evan Turk emanates warmth with every page turn.  His use of light and shadow is marvelous in each of the lush settings.  He shifts his perspectives to intensify the text.  Sometimes we are shown a dramatic panoramic view, other times it is as if we are in the hole looking up at whoever is there, and sometimes we are given a bird's eye view.

Most of the illustrations span two pages.  When Maude and Eve are riding in the truck, walking on the property near the dogwood tree, digging, and speaking we are close to them.  We can see their eyes.  Their facial expressions invite us into this story.  There are two wordless images near the end which are superb.

One of my many favorite illustrations accompanies the above-noted passage.  Maude, on the left, her gray hair ringing her face like a halo is lifting her head up as if listening.  She is dressed in warmer clothing in shades of green and red as she works in her garden.  The garden foliage and surrounding trees are in rich autumn browns and golds and cream.  The sky is golden with a much lighter color of turquoise.  Over Maude's left shoulder is an outline of her home.  She is wearing her signature red glasses.

Whether you read this book, The Red Tin Box written by Matthew Burgess with illustrations by Evan Turk, to yourself, one on one with a single listener or as a group read aloud, you might want to have a supply of red tin boxes handy.  This supremely gentle generational story on time and memory is certain to promote discussions as readers are wrapped in the love exuding from the pages.  You will want to have multiple copies of this title in your professional collection and one in your personal collection.

To discover more about Matthew Burgess and Evan Turk and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Both Matthew and Evan have interior images from this title displayed on their websites.  Matthew Burgess has an account on Instagram.  Evan Turk has accounts on Instagram and Twitter

Friday, April 14, 2023

Every Day Is Earth Day #2

On January 6, 2023, in an attempt to provide readers with 2022 publications related to our beautiful planet and its protection prior to the ALA Youth Media Awards, I compiled a post of seventeen books, including early readers through middle grade titles.  During the course of 2022 I talked about other climate crisis and earth-friendly books, but these were books I categorize as too-good-too-miss tomes.  

I am setting up this post in the same manner as the previous post.  Author, illustrator, and publisher links, when available, are provided.  Social media accounts will be included.  Passages from the books are shown.  Short summaries, observations, are supplied.  If there are other valuable resources about these books, links will be attached.  These six titles are listed in order of release date.

There are warning labels on plastic bags for a reason, usually involving children.  To me, it seems as though our planet is in the same situation.  We are suffocating under an overabundance of plastic.  Titles like One Earth by Eileen Spinelli with art by Rogerio Coelho, Ocean! Waves for All by Stacy McAnulty with art by David Litchfield and Washed Ashore: Making Art From Ocean Plastic written and illustrated by Kelly Crull draw our attention to this dilemma and offer solutions.

The Last Plastic Straw: A Plastic Problem And Finding Ways To Fix It (Books For Better Earth, Holiday House, February 21, 2023) written by Dee Romito with illustrations by Ziyue Chen not only gives us answers but provides us with information about the evolution of this serious issue.  At the end of the book is an author's note, a list of sources, and more information to be found online, in books and by watching documentaries.  There is an index, too.  At Penguin Random House, you can view the endpapers.  At Maria Marshall's website, you can read about Dee Romito and her work on this book.

Over five thousand years ago, the ancient Sumerians had a problem.

They needed a way to avoid the icky substances in their beverages.  The barley-based drink they brewed was thick, and the undrinkable solids sunk to the bottom.

We feel like time travelers as a fascinating history of the straw is presented.  It began with reeds, hollow grasses.  Over time, different substances were used to fashion a hollow tube.  In South America, they even devised a filter on the end of their "bombilla" when drinking tea.

Believe it or not, by the 1800s, rye was being used.  Who wants pieces of rye in their drinks?  Marvin Stone is credited with inventing the first paper straw.  Another gentleman, Joseph Friedman, invented the bendable straw.  As you might imagine, paper was not very durable.  Now plastic enters.

To address this problem, a boy named Milo Cress, when he was nine years old, began a campaign titled "Be Straw Free".  Twelve years later, it is still active.  Other options are offered for readers with straws fashioned from more earth-friendly materials.  The last three sentences deliver a challenge to each reader.  The choice is ours.

The text for this title penned by Dee Romito reads like a one-on-one conversation.  She informs us with facts and offers doable actions.  Rather than feeling overwhelmed, readers will feel as though they can make a difference for the greater good.

Dee Romito has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, and YouTube.

The full-color lively artwork by Ziyue Chen was rendered with Procreate on iPad.  The two-page, full-page and partial-page pictures enhance the narrative leading us through history.  Actual items are featured with tape on the corners like in a scrapbook.  Her dramatic two-page image of the damage plastic does to our oceans and ocean life grasps your attention, as does the final two-page visual of hands from around the world from all walks of life stacked together to make a change for the benefit of our world.

Ziyue Chen has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

It hardly seems possible that nearly five years have passed since fifteen-year-old Greta Thunberg began her Fridays for Future, a global climate strike movementOur House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg's Call to Save the Planet written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter is a wonderful picture book biography about this outstanding teen who started a worldwide youth awakening.  She is also featured in No World Too Big: Young People Fighting Global Climate Change (Charlesbridge, March 14, 2023) edited by Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley with illustrations by Jeanette Bradley. 

This beautifully illustrated collection of poems is certain to inspire readers of all ages.  At the close of the book is extensive back matter beginning with two pages dedicated to what an individual can do and what a group can do.  There is a glossary, an explanation of greenhouse gases, and definitions of eleven different poetry forms.  The fifteen poets are listed with short biographies.  They are David Bowles, Jeanette Bradley, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, JaNay Brown-Wood, Keila V. Dawson, Dalia Elhassan, Rajani LaRocca, Renee M. LaTulippe, Lindsay H. Metcalf, Aka Niviana, Sally J. Pla, Teresa Robesson, Traci Sorell, Heidi E. Y. Stemple and Carlon Zackhras.  Stephen Porder is listed as the Science Consultant.  At the publisher's website, you can download an activity kit.  Here is a link to the youth-in-action pages at the United Nations.  At Penguin Random House, you can view the opening and closing endpapers as well as interior images.

A found poem from the "Paris Agreement" by Lindsay H. Metcalf

Guided by
the need for
a just transition,
should     respect
the rights of
Mother Earth.  . . .

This first of sixteen poems launches the span of activities taken by ten individuals, a two-student team, and five groups, including the call-to-action poem, a golden shovel poem, at the conclusion.  Through the efforts of these young people, in particular places on our planet, real change for the good has happened. Zanagee Artis gathered like-minded students to organize the first youth-led climate march in our nation's capital.  They formed Zero Hour.

By learning of Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, readers will realize they can use their talents, like music, to raise awareness.  A group of youth from the Marshall Islands have presented at the United Nations about the rising sea levels.  You are never too young to advocate for change.  Artemisa Barbosa Ribeiro was only seven years old when she started planting trees in Brazil.  The same can be said about fifteen-year-old Leah Namugerwa who planted two hundred trees.  Have you heard of her Birthday Trees project?

Youth from the Philippines, Canada, Sudan, the states of Georgia, Ohio, and Colorado in the United States, Ukraine, and Indonesia have held their government accountable, become the chief water commissioner of the Anishinabek Nation, written newspaper articles about climate change, formed their own company of upcycled clothing, inspired a government to place compost bins at schools, designed and made bio buses, earned the title of America's Top Youth Scientist for an invention, and won a grant to install solar panels on their school buildings.  After reading about these accomplishments, you'll be ready to be the next individual to make a difference for our planet's preservation.

Editors and poets, Lindsay H. Metcalf, Keila V. Dawson, and Jeanette Bradley, have gathered some of the foremost names in children's literature to write the poems about these outstanding young people.  After each poem, shown on the left, a paragraph on the right gives further details about the youth, youth team, or group.  At the bottom of the right page, one or more sentences supply ideas to individual readers.  For example, after the description about Leah Namugerwa we read:

Celebrate your birthday by planting
a tree.  Gather your friends and have
a tree-planting party!

Lindsay H. Metcalf has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Keila V. Dawson has accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Jeanette Bradley has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter

The illustrations by Jeanette Bradley for this title were painted digitally in Procreate for iPad on a digital paper design by Paper Farms.  On the black opening and closing endpapers, a loose map of the world is drawn in white.  Here we can see all the contributions made by the young people labeled with their names and their country.  A double-page picture accompanies each poem, varying in perspective, but usually bringing us close to the individuals as they worked.

This morning when Mulan and I were walking, I was reminded once more of how surprising and majestic our world truly is.  As we were passing an association clubhouse, a sight stopped me in my tracks.  More than a dozen birds were perched along the roof and its edges and perched on chimney tops.  They looked like weathervanes or metal sculptures.  Many of them had their wings fanned out to their sides as if drying them which is strange as we are under a red flag warning.  They also looked like they were welcoming the sun's rising as they faced east.

It called to mind a book paying homage to our planet.  My Friend Earth written by Patricia MacLachlan with illustrations by Francesca Sanna is a letter of love to this place we all call home.  It can be paired with this gorgeous portrait and newly released title, Thís Is The Planet Where I Live (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, March 21, 2023) written by K. L. Going with artwork by Debra Frasier.  K. L. Going and Debra Frasier have collaborated to create a poetic, picturesque tribute to Earth.  At the publisher's website, you can view some of these marvelous interior spreads.  There is also a link to a performance activity there.  Here is another link to an activity titled Bird Sky Poem.  At Debra Frasier's website, you can view a video where she explains her illustrative process for this book.  Please take a few moments to watch this.

is the 
where I live.

Here are the people
who share the planet
where I live.

With each page turn, our view of this planet is enlarged.  We see a variety of homes supplying shelter for the people and the fields near those abodes.  Animals domesticated and wild are shown.

Insects are presented as are the birds who consume them.  Trees are exalted for their purpose in giving homes to the birds.  We go to new heights in looking toward the clouds.

The water cycle is uplifted as we dive into the oceans and the occupants that reside there.  In a final stanza, the interconnectedness of life is offered to readers.  We circle back to the beginning.

Author K. L. Going has written a cumulative narrative, inviting reader participation.  A delightful cadence is fashioned as a phrase is added each time and ends with the planet where I live except for the last three words.  There I becomes we.  Reading this aloud is a joy.

K. L. Going has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

As soon as you look and then study the depiction of Earth on the deep royal blue canvas on the dust jacket and book case, you know the images within this title by Debra Frasier are breathtakingly rendered.  They were made in photo-collaged elements and Canson papers.  The intricate details ask you to pause page after page, starting with the partial sunflower on the opening and closing endpapers portraying the sun and the tiny yellow blossoms radiating between the sun's rays.

Debra Frasier has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

When I read Scott Magoon's first book in his The Extincts series, Quest For The Unicorn Horn I found myself increasingly attached to the characters, Scratch, a Saber-Toothed Tiger, Lug, a Woolly Mammoth, Martie, a Passenger Pigeon, and Quito, a Collins' Poison Frog, all extinct.  During the course of their first adventure a new member was added to the team, Ursa, a Cave Bear.  Their team, ROAR, Rescue Ops Acquisition Rangers, is dedicated to helping preserve our planet, one exciting escapade at a time.

The Extincts: Flight Of The Mammoth (Amulet Books, March 21, 2023), a graphic novel written and illustrated by Scott Magoon turns up the heat for the friends as they face their newest challenge.  At the publisher's website and at Scott Magoon's website, you can view interior images from this title.  Scott Magoon has loads of resources and activities at his website about this series.  At the close of the book is extensive, engaging, and informative back matter.  It includes pages of The Extinctiary, two pages on how we can help The Extincts to preserve our planet, About Wildfires, About Smoke Jumpers and Gear, and discussions about The Elephant's Trunk Nebula, The Griffith Observatory, and The La Brea Tar Pits.  There is a page on how to make your own telescope.  Further Reading is grouped for young readers, older readers and websites along with a bibliography.  If you are like me, you will enjoy the acknowledgements and information about Scott Magoon.

India 1998
10:27 PM


Where are you?!  



There he is!


This way!

I tried
putting out
the fire.
It's no use.
I'm too weak.


In the present day, The Extincts have decided to open a zoo with themselves as exhibits in order to raise money for their continued efforts.  Lug is not happy about this enterprise and explodes in anger at a malicious teen.  He believes they should be out helping to quell all the wildfires.  That night when the others are sleeping, Lug leaves.

Several days later, readers find Lug working with a team of smokejumpers.  Wildfires are springing up faster than they can contain them.  Someone is setting these fires, hoping to burn as much as possible.  In case you thought, the others in ROAR would let Lug go, think again.  They are searching for him and have tracked him to the area where he is working with the smokejumpers.

Lug and the smokejumpers find themselves in one intense situation after another.  When the arsonist, a Mastodon, is discovered, they find themselves fighting for their lives.  To the credit of the ROAR team, they find Lug and the smokejumpers, but just when you think the tension is easing . . . it surges again.  Nonstop action takes readers to a conclusion you won't see coming.

This title, like its predecessor, is full of witty dialogue, punny humor, and bits of information cleverly woven into the narrative.  Scott Magoon's highly detailed artwork moves us quickly from one panel to another panel.  Even in moments of stillness, there is an aliveness to his characters.  This reader is ready for book three.

Scott Magoon has accounts on Facebook, InstagramTwitter and YouTube.

The past twelve months have shown us how unpredictable our weather can be.  Extremes are becoming more of the norm.  This week rainfall records were broken in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with extensive flooding.  It would be nice to think that we humans have made greater strides since that first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, and in some respects, we have, but we cannot deny climate change and overwhelming pollution are facts of our lives now.

Nonfiction picture books are a constant, enlightening source of information for readers of all ages. The Day the River Caught Fire: How the Cuyahoga River Exploded and Ignited the Earth Day Movement (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, March 28, 2023) written by Barry Wittenstein with artwork by Jessie Hartland is an excellent example, highlighting historical truths and bringing us to the present.  It asks readers, based on facts, to continue what was started.  As the saying goes---There is no planet B.  At the conclusion of the book is a one-page Author's Note, a two-page Environmental Timeline, and two pages of videos to watch, organizations to join or read about, a link to the Earth Day website, and books for further reading.  There is also a bibliography.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior illustrations.

On a sticky and sunny Sunday in the summer of 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland did something rivers should never do.


Why might you ask would a river catch on fire?  Sparks from a passing train fell in the river which was highly polluted.  It was another fire in a long line of fires since 1886, numbering thirteen.

This river used to be clean.  It was used as a source of travel and recreation.  Fish caught in the river could be eaten.  Native Americans enjoyed what this river offered.

The Industrial Revolution changed everything.  There were more people wanting more of everything.  All the waste from producing all this "more" went into the river.  After a while, the river was declared dead, unable to support life.  It was disgusting, but no one did anything about it until that fire.  Cleveland's current mayor, Carl Stokes said enough is enough.

News of the fire spread.  So did the challenge to make changes for the better.  Congress got in on the action passing the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.  The celebration of the first Earth Day was massive.  By 1990 it had spread around the world and is still growing today.

Each time you read the words penned by Barry Wittenstein in this title, you feel as though a trusted friend has told you a story, making you feel as though you were present when each event was happening.  His word choices, adjectives, verbs, and repetition, captivate us throughout the pages.  Specific details like this quotation---

If you fall in, go straight to the hospital.
Better to be safe than sorry.

told to factory workers, emphasize each issue.

Barry Wittenstein has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.

Rendered in gouache by Jessie Hartland, the visuals in this book are brimming with tiny elements asking us to stop and read the words and then look at the illustrations again.  Elements from the interior images are grouped on the opening and closing endpapers.  The buildings and vehicles are representative of the historical context in which they are placed.  Facial expressions on humans (and some pets) reflect the current environmental state.  You will also see little tidbits of humor.

Jessie Hartland has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Time and time again, our Earth has shown us in big and little ways the true definition of resilience.  Devastating occurrences have completely altered the environment and those that lived in that environment, but the planet seems to always have a plan.  It comes back, never the same, but sometimes better.

Several books which ask us to appreciate this resilience and beauty with joy are Dear Little One by Nina Laden with artwork by Melissa Castrillon and Zonia's Rain Forest written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal.  You will want to add Little Land (Little, Brown And Company, April 11, 2023) written and illustrated by Diana Sudyka to form a trio of wonders.  This gem reminds us of what has been, what is, and what can be.  At the close of the book there is an author's note, some words, concepts, and questions that inspired this book, some animals and plants in this book in order of appearance, different epochs represented in this book in chronological order and more resources.  At Diana Sudyka's website, there are two stunning double-page pictures from the interior of the book for you to enjoy.  At School Library Journal, A Fuse #8 Production, Betsy Bird chats with Diana Sudyka about this book. 

there was a little bit of land.

This little bit of land was not enormous or teeny, tiny, but just the right size for all those who made it their home.  It had existed for a very long time going back to the beginning, through the age of the dinosaurs and the Ice Age.  It always survived.

Life began anew.

Regardless of the changes, the land remained steadfast in its abilities to care for all that resided there.  It provided essentials for all the flora and fauna.  But sometimes, those changes were shocking.  A fire could alter the landscape tragically.  Slowly . . . life thrived again.

When people became more involved, the land shifted in appearance.  More people meant the building of more structures.  Soon the land was covered, and the people dug into the land to get what they believed they needed.  Most people did not notice.  Some children did notice.

The beauty of the land was becoming less and less visible.  Then land was suffering.  Could anything be done for the land?  Remember those children?  They decided to look at the land and listen to the land.  Their looking and listening spread to others.  This is how we help the land, our land, the planet 

to begin anew.

Is it working?  The final sentence in this title is your answer.

This melodic text written by Diana Sudyka draws readers into the narrative, involving them in the history of the little land and its inhabitants, animals and plants. She gently, but with purpose, guides us on this journey so we can understand how the land changed and how it adapted as best as it could.  When she shows how the smallest of us can make a positive difference, she is also showing all of us to be more mindful of where we reside.

Diana Sudyka has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

When you look closely at the artwork on the open dust jacket and the open book case, different from the jacket, dazzled by the colors, lines, shapes, and intricate elements, you feel as though you can hear the heartbeat of little land.  Throughout the book, each image, even the most destructive, is teeming with life.  Sometimes, it is hidden and muffled by change, but it is always there . . . waiting.  These visuals rendered in gouache watercolor on watercolor paper with digital enhancements will take your breath away.  All of the images, regardless of how the pages are divided or displayed span two pages.

Book Chat with the Illustrator featuring Diana Sudyka from LB School on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Early Reader Extravaganza #3

Waiting for the next book in a series is far more exciting than waiting for your birthday or a special holiday.  As the saying goes, a book is a gift you can open again and again. (attributed to Garrison Keillor) For early readers, those beings who are feeling the fire of story ignite in new ways, the return of beloved characters is like welcoming home our best friends. We can hardly wait to read about their new adventures and discoveries.  Where will they go?  Who will they meet?  Will their new story make us laugh or cry or think about possibilities or maybe all of those and more?

Early readers and the books written for them are a joy to watch when they connect.  As said in the previous posts, Early Reader Extravaganza and Early Reader Extravaganza #2, the engaging characters in these stories make lifelong bonds with readers.  These characters stay with us for the rest of our lives. 

For those of us who love canine characters, there is no better way to celebrate our shared experiences with them than through the laughter they provide and their special outlook on their lives and our lives. How fortunate we are to have within the past week two releases of the third book in an early reader series featuring dogs we cannot help but love.  Doggo and Pupper Search For Cozy (Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, March 28, 2023) written by Katherine Applegate with illustrations by Charlie Alder is seven chapters of dog and cat logic destined to have readers smiling and laughing out loud before the final sigh at the end.

Chapter One
Bad News

"Bad news," said Cat.  "The humans
had another idea."
"Uh-oh," said Doggo.
"Oh no," said Pupper.

As Doggo and Pupper question Cat about the bad news, they find out it is not ridiculous hats, bubble baths, fireworks, or vacuum cleaners.  This bad news only affects Cat.  The humans have purchased a new bed for Cat.

While the bed is identical to the previous bed, it lacks one essential property.  It has no cozy.  Cat declares there will be no more sleep for this feline fussbudget.

An outside adventure does not lift Cat's spirits.  Neither does a discussion on pickiness. When Nap Time rolls around Doggo is ready for a snooze.  Pupper, as you might expect, is not.  Pupper can't quit talking and wondering about Cat and her bed. 

That night during a storm, Pupper is truly glad to have Doggo close.  Cat can not get settled; no place has cozy.  So, guess what?  No one sleeps.  Doggo and Pupper know they have to fix this dilemma.  

The next day after clever trickery (humans are gullible) on their parts, Doggo and Pupper go outside to locate the old bed.  Digging in garbage cans is smelly business, but triumphant, or is it?  Sometimes, cozy arrives exactly when it should.

Through a marvelous blend of narrative and dialogue, author Katherine Applegate further endears us to these individuals, Doggo, Pupper, and Cat.  Their distinctive personalities are revealed in their conversations and antics.  We sympathize with the sometimes-unsettling nature of change.  The friendship between the trio has never been more apparent.  Amid our empathy (and love) for them, we cannot help but find the hilarity in their reasoning.  I found the parallels between the storm and Cat finding cozy to be fantastic storytelling.  Here is a passage.

"Cat is never going to sleep again," said Pupper.  "Why do I have to?"
Doggo opened one eye.  "Trust me," he said.
"Cat will sleep again.  Sleeping is her superpower."

"I wonder where her old bed is," said Pupper.
Doggo made an extra-loud snore.

Artist Charlie Alder enhances an already joyous story with her fun and funny illustrations.  Her full-color pictures are lively and captivating.  We can tell Doggo and Pupper extend their full sympathies to the plight of Cat by looking at the front of the book case.  On the back of the case is text we would usually find on the front and back flaps of a dust jacket.  There is a blurb for the book, information about the creators, and reviews for the series. The entire case is varnished.

The color of the title text on the front of the case is replicated on the opening and closing endpapers.  Small images of Pupper, Doggo, Cat and pet toys decorate the title, verso, and contents pages. Prior to the beginning of each chapter, there is a large image on the left foreshadowing the chapter highlights with the text on the right.

Throughout the book, the picture sizes vary.  We have dramatic double-page pictures followed by colorful single-page visuals.  Sometimes, there is a group of smaller images on one page.  These different illustration sizes amplify the text.  By bringing us close to the activities portrayed, we feel as though we are a part of the story.

What readers will enjoy most are the facial expressions, body postures, and antics depicted of Doggo, Pupper, and Cat.  They are highly animated, leaving no doubt as to their mood at any given moment.  Readers will find themselves laughing page after page, sometimes for most of a chapter.

One of my many favorite illustrations is actually a group of images.  There are six smaller pictures of Pupper doing everything but napping.  He is flying with a balloon, ready for a swim with flippers, a tube, and snorkel, zooming on his belly on a skateboard, roller blading, standing on his head and hopping over a lounging Cat, sipping her drink through her striped straw, and Doggo on his back eating popcorn, the bowl on his stomach.  This trio is comic and highly entertaining.

Readers will be cheering for these animal friends page after page in Doggo And Pupper Search For Cozy written by Katherine Applegate with artwork by Charlie Alder.  I can only imagine readers will be rereading the first two books again after reading this one and then reading the third book for a second time.  We simply don't want to let our favorite friends go.  At the close of the book is Cat's Guide to Napping.  These ten recommendations are sure to bring on the giggles.  You will want at least one copy of this title in your professional collections and one for your personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Katherine Applegate and Charlie Alder and their other work, please visit the websites highlighting them by following the link attached to their names.  Katherine Applegate has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Charlie Alder has accounts on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior pages to get a glimpse of the fun waiting for you.

A third dose of comedy (and truth as only dogs can tell us) is charming its way into our hearts and minds today.  Fenway And The Loudmouth Bird (Make Way For Fenway series)(Putnam, G. Putnam's Sons, April 4, 2023) written by Victoria J. Coe with illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff is a treasured look in ten chapters at how our canine friends perceive their worlds and us.  In this newest early reader, we can see Fenway is learning more with each experience.  He is also making us better humans.  


As soon as my short human, Hattie,
opens the car door, I hop outside.
My ears are perked.  My nose is high.
And my tail is wagging.

I hear a lawn mower.  I smell the
faint aromas of coffee, licorice,
and a little bit of cherry.  And I
see sidewalks, grass, and rows of 

Now that Fenway has assessed his surroundings with his senses, he is delighted to know they are at Hattie's grandmother's home.  This always means good things for Fenway.  They will play his favorite game, Abracadabra, which involves treats.

Can you imagine Fenway's shock to discover a bird in Nana's home?  Birds and squirrels (those nasty sneaks) belong outside.  But Merlin is Nana's new feathered friend.  To Fenway's chagrin, Merlin can talk human!  And everyone is giving this bird their undivided attention.  Fenway wants to play the Abracadabra game and get some treats.  But wait, the treats are in the car.

As the group heads to the car, Fenway is hopeful, but Fetch Man and Food Lady leave with the treats.  Now it's just Nana, Hattie, Fenway and that dratted bird, Merlin.  Nana and Hattie play the Abracadabra game with Merlin who now knows how to call out Fenway's name in the you're-in-trouble voice.  Fenway decides to turn his attention to the squirrels outside Nana's window.  As he barks at them to protect Hattie and Nana, Merline starts squawking out SQUIRRELS!  Fenway is wondering if Merline might get that squirrels are not a good thing.

Activities progress on day two, which puzzle Fenway and make Merlin uncomfortable.  Fenway is starting to empathize with the bird.  The afternoon gets interesting when Hattie and Nana leave the bird and dog alone.  Fenway is awakened from a nap by calls from Merlin. The bird is even starting to bark.  Yes, you read that right . . . bark.  Something has upset the bird and Fenway, as is his purpose, is on the job.

Readers suddenly find themselves cheering even more for the determined little terrier.  Will he be able to accomplish this newest feat?  Merlin's calling of his name has changed in tone.  Is that bird cheering for Fenway, too?  When Nana and Hattie return, they are greeted by several surprises.  The best one, according to Fenway, is the new words Merlin utters.  GIVE FENWAY A TREAT!

With every book showcasing Fenway, we readers learn more about dogs and their minds and hearts.  This is a gift author Victoria J. Coe gives to readers with each title.  It is easy to understand how Fenway acts and reacts in each situation in this story through narrative, his thoughts, and dialogue. 

Each individual, including Fenway, approaches each situation with expectations.  When those are altered, adjustments must be made.  The results of those adjustments are sometimes surprising and, in this case, highly favorable.  Fenway learns a bump in the road can lead to a new pathway, one shared with friends.  Here is a passage.

"FEN-way! FEN-way!" comes
from the big cage.  I hear rustling
and jabbing sounds.  What a racket!
I try to ignore him, but it's no
"FEN-way! FEN-way!"
Why does Merlin have to be so
loud?  It sounds like he's freaking
out in the cage.  Is he mad at it 
or something?

I get up and trot toward the cage.
"Quiet down, loudmouth!" I bark.

I watch him flit back and forth and
peck the metal bars. He's clearly 
upset about something.  Is he just as
sad as I am that Nana and 
Hattie left?

Nobody looks more surprised than Fenway at the appearance of a parakeet at Nana's house.  What's a dog supposed to do when a bird, who is clearly to be outside, is now inside?  This bird looks as though it has something to say to Fenway.  This image on the front, right side, of the matching dust jacket and book case, will have readers asking all kinds of questions before they start to gobble up the goodness of the story.  

To the left of the spine is an introduction to this title, along with thumbnails of the three books in the series.  There is also a nod to the original Fenway and Hattie title for older readers.  On the title page, Fenway, tail wagging in happiness, greets readers.

These images in black, white, and gray by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff throughout the book on cream-colored canvases convey the best moments in each chapter.  We know exactly where Fenway is, who Fenway is with, and what all the characters are feeling.  You will be pausing at page turns to study the details.  Each illustration is as lively as our favorite Jack Russell terrier.  Through these pictures our understanding of Fenway grows stronger. 

One of my many favorite illustrations is actually a series of three smaller images on two pages.  We see Fenway on the hunt for something lost.  He is peering around the drapes in Nana's apartment.  Then, we see the back portion of him snooping under the drapes.  In the final one, all we see is Fenway's nose peeking from under the bottom of the drapes.  This is so typical of dogs looking for something, I laughed out loud.  They are always led by their super-sniffer noses.

The best part about Fenway is his ability to learn.  In this third book in the early reader series, Fenway And The Loudmouth Bird written by Victoria J. Coe with artwork by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, Fenway does not falter from his job of protecting his young human Hattie and the older humans around her.  But, he, wise dog he is, shows us how friendships can form in the most unlikely of places.  You will most definitely want more than one copy of this title on your professional bookshelves and one for your personal collections.  

To learn more about Victoria J. Coe and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff and their other work, please take a few minutes to visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Victoria J. Coe has accounts on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.  Joanne Lew-Vriethoff has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can read an excerpt from the book plus view the chapter contents.