Quote of the Month

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

Friday, September 23, 2022

Water Is . . .

The wind has been gusting between twenty and thirty miles per hour for more than twenty-four hours.  People in our area have been warned to stay out of the water due to high waves and strong currents.  Despite the wind chill currently at below fifty degrees, surf boards can be seen in vehicles at the park along Michigan Beach.  Lake Michigan, at the tip of the Mitt, has been wild and beautiful today. (September 22, 2022)

There is something soothing about the proximity of a large body of water, calm or wild.  It is essential to life on our planet, especially to those creatures living within or around that large body of water.  In their sixth book, author Kate Messner and artist Christopher Silas Neal give us the lovely Over and Under the Waves (Chronicle Books, September 13, 2022).  For those who have rarely traversed or never been in water larger than one of the Great Lakes or inland lakes in the United States, this book takes us on a memorable exploration.

Over the waves we paddle, away from
the beach to the water's deep blue.

Two red kayaks glide. In one is a mother and child.  In the other is the father.  They first encounter a group of sea lions basking on a cluster of rocks.  One leaves and dives into the water.

When the child questions where the sea lion goes, their mother speaks of the world beneath their kayaks and the plants and animals living there.  As they continue to paddle, under them different fish of different sizes and colors swim.  In the sky, pelicans search over the kayaks.  

As their kayaks slide into a

forest of kelp

the child holds tight to some to stay in place.  Their mother notes sea otters do the same thing.  A female otter floats, with her child, on top of the water and another swims through the kelp in search of food.

Slicing through the water, the family notices sea birds above them looking for their next meal as a leopard shark does the same below them.  In the distance, whales have surfaced.  Can they move closer to the whales?  Will they surface again?

Homeward bound the kayaks move.  They cannot see the giant octopus under them, but they do see the abundant life in the small tide pools and along the sand. Now home and near sleep, the child can still hear the sea.  It moves and lulls life under the waves in a timeless melody.

Author Kate Messner has the adept ability to bring the magic she encounters in her adventures to the printed page for us.  Her word choices are highly descriptive, fashioning a portrait of the place.  She includes a bit of dialogue and sound effects to heighten our participation.  Throughout the book, she names specific plant and animal life and their habits. Here is a passage.

The bay has gone quiet.  We wait,
rising and falling on the swells.

     Under the waves, pale moon jellies
     float and sea nettles drift, swinging
     with the slow current.

"We should head back," Mom says, but then . . .

As you look at the stunning image spanning left to right, back to front, on the matching and open dust jacket and book case, you are truly over and under the waves.  The illustration crosses the spine flawlessly.  To the left of the spine and above the kelp forest, a school of tiny fish moves from the left edge to the spine.  The bay water rises to nearly the top of the left side.  On the front, the position of the pelican and other shore birds is impeccable. Look at the comparison of the kayaks with the whale!  Wow!

The opening and closing endpapers are a brilliant blue.  It is the kind of blue when the sky is crystal clear and reflected in the water.  There is a pattern of starfish, scallop shells, and fish with air bubbles in white on that blue canvas.   

Artist Christopher Silas Neal begins his pictorial interpretation on the verso and title pages.  Here we see a panoramic view of the cottage where the family is staying.  It is at the top of a grassy hill with a triple staircase leading down to the beach and the red kayaks.  In front of this is the bay and along the bottom of the pages, we see beneath the water.

Each of the double-page pictures and single-page pictures

rendered in mixed media

involve us deeply in the family's excursion.  We are treated to breathtaking seascape views.  Sometimes we are close to the family as they are noticing the world around them.  We see vast scenes under the water and sometimes we move close to the residents there.  At times we are looking down on the kayakers as if we are one of the sea birds.  Often we are able to see over and under the waves at the same time.  Careful readers will notice the sky changing as the day comes to a close and dusk descends.

One of my many favorite images is a single-page picture.  We are looking down on a pelican in flight that fills a large portion of the page.  Beneath the bird are two other pelicans, much smaller and much lower to the water.  On the water are the two red kayaks; the family holding their paddles at rest.  Pelicans in flight invite our attention; silent sentinels that they are.

For those who have never visited the sea or an ocean or who have and wish they could be there again, this book, Over and Under the Waves written by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal, is the ideal title.  At the close of the book is an Author's Note.  This is followed by several pages of information about the individual twenty-two flora and fauna mentioned in the text.  There is also a page dedicated to a list of books and websites for further information about Monterey Bay and what you might find over and under the waves.  This book is a stellar addition to a fabulous series.  You will want a copy in both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  There are interior images from this book at Christopher Silas Neal's website.  Kate Messner has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Christopher Silas Neal has accounts on FacebookInstagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

A Cloak Of Comfort

Even a casual observer will notice the abundance of blankets in my home.  A collector of warmth and comfort abides within this space.  Several of them are gifts from treasured friends.  Stories are woven in them.

As children we know there is something about burrowing under the cover of a blanket to read a book by flashlight when everyone else is sleeping. In her first wordless picture book, Blanket (Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, August 2, 2022), Ruth Ohi tells a tender tale of the kindness extended from one friend to another friend.  True friends can look into our hearts and know exactly what they need.

One sunny morning with a trio of birds chirping outside the window, Cat wakes up.  The blue sky and happy birds cannot drive away the worry and sadness Cat feels.  Cat climbs off the bed and pulls the blanket along and completely covers their body.  There is a blue lump on the floor when Dog walks into the room.

Dog, book in hand, sits on the floor near the blue lump and begins to read.  The blue lump moves closer to Dog for a snuggle.  Dog begins to talk.  Soon the blanket lifts and Dog crawls inside with Cat.  Cat talks and talks and Dog listens and listens.

Then, Dog supplies Cat with a flashlight.  The two play and Cat seems to be better until Dog leaves and does not come back fast enough.  Dog has the best idea, though.  The duo make an open-air tent, a canopy, with the blanket and two chairs.

As you might expect, the fun escalates.  There is shadow puppetry.  When Dog wants to leave again, Cat is distressed, but Dog is a reassuring companion, the best kind of companion.  What do you think Cat does in Dog's absence?  Cat is remembering.  Dog remembers, too.  A blanket can be many things.

This story told without words by Ruth Ohi is beautifully conceived.  It is an expression of shared sorrows being halved and shared joys being multiplied.  It shows readers the many forms friendship can take.  Using the blanket as the unifying component of the tale is brilliant.  Readers of all ages can readily identify, based upon their own experiences, with the value of a blanket.

There is a feeling of sanctuary in the scene with Cat and Dog on the front, right side, of the matching dust jacket and book case.  Kneeling under the blanket, head to head, the two are one in the affection they hold for each other.  This image extends over the spine.  To the left of the spine is a crisp white canvas.  Two of the featured birds are flying left to right across the top. (The third bird is on the back flap.)  In the center is a drawing of Cat, looking a bit lost, on a piece of paper with a few crayons nearby.  Above this, in an arc, we read:

How much difference can a friend make on a gray day?

Both the opening and closing endpapers are shaded in hues of gray and purple to signify Cat's morning mood.  On the page prior to the title page, Cat, lying on their stomach, is drawing a picture.  Edge to edge, across the verso and title pages is the blue blanket.

These illustrations by Ruth Ohi are loosely framed and placed on a white background.  They are full-page pictures, two images to a single page, and dramatic double-page visuals.  Sometimes smaller images will be grouped on a page to denote the passage of time.  We are usually close to the characters, making for a more intimate reading of the narrative.

The use of color depicts the current mood of the characters.  Facial expressions are realistic and easy to understand.  These facial expressions bind us to the characters.  Ruth Ohi's lines and light and shading are marvelous.

One of my many favorite illustrations is actually a trio of images on a single page.  In the first one, the blue lump, Cat under the blanket, has moved right next to Dog.  Dog, eyes closed in contentment, leans next to the blanket.  The book is temporarily on the floor.  In the second visual, Dog is turning toward the blanket, speaking and holding the book open.  In the final picture, the blue lump has moved even closer to Dog as the book is read aloud.

If there were a category of huggable books, Blanket conceived and illustrated by Ruth Ohi, would be at the top of the list.  This story without words speaks volumes about the importance of friendship on any day.  As a story time title with a group, sighs will fill the room at its conclusion.  If you are reading this one-on-one, be sure to have enough blankets for snuggling and a shelter.  I highly recommend this book for your personal and professional collections.  It would make a wonderful gift.

To learn more about Ruth Ohi and her other work, please visit her website by following the links attached to her name.  Ruth Ohi has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

A Miraculous Quest

Any trek can become challenging, even a stroll through your own neighborhood.  (Who knew raccoons and skunks were out and about in daylight?)  When you plan for a longer trip to another part of your state, another state in your country, or a different country, you cannot foresee all possible obstacles.  Your main focus is to get from one point to the other with as little problems as possible and to enjoy as many moments as you can.  

For this reason, animal travels and animal migrations seem like miracles to this human.  Impressive, to say the least, is the chronicle of this animal odyssey by Lindsay Moore titled Yoshi And The Ocean: A Sea Turtle's Incredible Journey Home (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, May 24, 2022).  Your appreciation and respect for this sea turtle will grow, page turn by page turn.

Before she
had a name,
she was an egg.

Or she was
within an egg,
flippers folded
around a yolk.

After hatching, this being makes her way to the water.  There, as a tiny turtle and injured, she is rescued by fishermen.  They feed her and give her a name,


She is taken to an aquarium in Cape Town.  She is the first turtle there.  As she grows, the people learn.  She lives within this aquarium for others to observe for twenty years!

She knows she needs to leave.  Her caretakers know she needs to leave.  Preparations are made by Yoshi and her humans.  Before being released, a tracking device is glued to her shell.

Now free of the confines of the aquarium and its safety, Yoshi needs to navigate the ocean waters.  Whenever she breaks the surface, a signal is transmitted showing her location.  She swims toward and among a food source, a plankton bloom.  She is recalling how to survive.  For a while, she swims in shallow and deeper waters south of the tip of Africa.  She is eating lots of food.  Where will she go next?  Where is her home?

Surprising those at the aquarium, Yoshi goes south and east around and through the turbulent waters of the famous cape.  Yoshi swims and swims and eats and eats whatever and whenever she can.  Yoshi moves across the ocean, traveling eastward for years!  Yoshi arrives at Australia, home at last.

Readers will not only enjoy reading about the trek this sea turtle takes, but the manner in which author Lindsay Moore presents the information to us.  Her sentences are simple, but descriptive through her word choices.  We are immersed into Yoshi's world at the aquarium and when she is wild within the ocean. 

Throughout the book, Lindsay Moore repeats the words

This is Yoshi.

They are followed by a more detailed account of her current situation and her actions there.  These accounts are fact-filled, but read like poetry.  Once in the wild, whenever Yoshi transmits her location we read the words,

Hello from Yoshi.  I am here.

Here is a passage.

This is Yoshi, homeward-bound turtle.
She is rounding the cape where two oceans meet,
where currents collide.
Where waves are known to rise to like cliffs,
and swallow ships.

She swims east . . . 
and everyone wonders 
where she is going.

Hello from Yoshi. I am here.

Resolute is a word which comes to mind when you look at big, bold Yoshi on the right side of the matching and open dust jacket and book case.  Nothing is going to stop this turtle from finding her way home.  The blue of the ocean water extends over the spine to the left side of the back.  There it provides a background for three photographs.  Two are of Yoshi in her aquarium home.  The third in the lower, right-hand corner is of the crew placing Yoshi back into the ocean.  Between the two sets of pictures, artist Lindsay Moore has placed three fish swimming behind Yoshi.

On the opening endpapers is a vast seascape with a large sandy area as a new day dawns.  There, tracks extend in several directions.  One set of tracks has a tiny sea turtle making their way toward the water.  The same area is visited decades later on the closing endpapers.  It is night with a starry sky and a full moon.  Waves lap the shore.  An adult sea turtle makes their way through those waves to the wind-swept beach.

Prior to the title page, on a double-page picture, we are taken close to a cluster of sea turtle eggs laying in a sandy nest.  We are shown a cross-section of one.  There is Yoshi.  This is followed by another double-page picture of sea turtles leaving the sand and entering the water.  The verso and title page text is carefully placed here on the left and right, respectively.

The full-color art was rendered in graphite, watercolor, drawing inks, Conte crayon, and color pencils.

Using a blend of single-page images in various perspectives with glorious double-page visuals in shifting points of view, readers are transported to a fascinating time and place.  We are at the aquarium standing in front of a vast glass display of sea life swimming in front of us.  In another scene, Yoshi is right in front of us, her face next to the glass, filling our view.

When Yoshi is placed back into the wild, we view her from underneath as the sun creates a glow around her, or at night when she is a small creature in an enormous body of water beneath an equally enormous sky.  We are supplied with extraordinary visions of other sea life.  In fact, once Yoshi is at sea, all the illustrations are two-page pictures.

One of my many favorite illustrations is the picture for the above-quoted passage. A dull gray sky with only two seabirds stretches from one side to the other at the top of the image.  Beneath this, towering white-capped waves in angry hues of deep blue and turquoise roll across the pages.  Amid this, small but strong, is Yoshi swimming in white foam.  Her tiny tracking tag is on her back.  

With every reading of Yoshi And The Ocean: A Sea Turtle's Incredible Journey Home written and illustrated by Lindsay Moore, you are moved by the accomplishments of this animal.  At the close of the book is extensive back matter.  There are two pages with a large map of Yoshi's trip.  There are numbered points with corresponding explanations along all four sides.  There are two pages with detailed descriptions of the characteristics of Loggerhead Sea Turtles.  These carefully explain their exterior and interior qualities with text and illustrations.  Still two more pages supply readers with facts about finding food in the ocean.  There is a page of references for more information followed by a page explaining how the tracking device on Yoshi worked. 

Yoshi sent 23,167 satellite messages during her incredible journey.

I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Lindsay Moore and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  Lindsay Moore has accounts on Instagram and Pinterest.  This book is featured by Julie Danielson on her site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Lindsay Moore is interviewed at The Mitten, The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Michigan Chapter Blog about this title.  At the publisher's website is a teaching guide.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

When Darkness Settles

There is no sleep.  Dreams are not dreamed.  Wishes are not made.  No day is complete or concludes without it.  What is this priceless phenomenon?

It is the need for story.  It is the longing to hear or read that which another believes is important for us to hear or read.  The Twilight Library (North|South Books, September 6, 2022) written by Carmen Oliver with illustrations by Miren Asiain Lora takes readers into an enchanting world.  In this world, a special being in a special space uses the power of words to take listeners on a sensory journey to places their hearts desire.

The sun slips behind the horizon;
the creatures of the night awaken.
Someone is calling them.

This voice implores them to come.  This voice wants to tell a tale.  Do the creatures of the night listen?  They do.

Some step lively to a rhythm.  Others start, stop, and go again.  Still more glide through the darkening skies, some lower to the ground and others high above the treetops.

Fireflies glow off and on and off and on.  A soothing breeze whispers through stems and leaves.  All these 

creatures of the night

gather at The Twilight Library, anticipation filling their souls. The Night Librarian, a weaver of webs and words, moves closer to her listeners.

She takes them to a place alive with color.  There, their hunger is satisfied by an array of food the likes royalty has never seen.  They are enveloped by thoughts of their most beloved sanctuaries.  They are asked to breathe wondrous odors and listen to nature's notable melodies.  They, together as one, are transported to realms fashioned by their imaginations.  All too soon dawn arrives.  But . . .

These phrases penned by Carmen Oliver calm readers like a lullaby.  Her blend of narrative and the words of the Night Librarian take us to one place before magic lifts us to another.  Repetition of key words fashions a cadence.  Alliteration draws us deeper into the spell cast by The Twilight Library and the storyteller residing there.  We, like the 

creatures of the night,

are completely captivated.  Here is a passage.

Nighthawks wind through the canopy,
hunting for the voice that beckons.

"Come, come, come, my friends,
let me spin, spin you a story."

Readers get their first peek at the marvelous color palette used by artist Miren Asiain Lora for this book on the open dust jacket.  Her hues depict the display of light prevalent when day is leaving and night is descending.  The framing by leaves, stems and flowers on the front, right side, of the jacket is the same on the back, the side to the left of the spine.

On the front, notice the tiny creatures looking at the light of a moon rising from the pages of a book.  Do you see the eyes shining from darkened nooks?  On the back, the creatures are absent.  Between the branches and stems, a single string of webbing is stretched.  Hanging in the webbing are books, spines out.  Two fireflies are moving left to right.

The book case presents two scenes.  On the back, to the left of the spine, is a starlit sky with a crescent moon in the upper, right-hand corner.  Two small trees rise above the ground along the bottom.  The sky is immense.  To the right of the spine, the sun is still above the horizon in a sky of peaches and pinks.  Above this, a deepening blue and purple with a few stars indicate the coming of dusk.

The opening endpapers present us with a rolling dip in a meadow.  A few butterflies make their way to the right.  The sun is slowly heading toward the horizon.  On the closing endpapers we have moved to the entrance/exit of The Twilight Library and the Night Librarian hanging there.  Her storytelling is over for tonight.  To the right, the crescent moon and a few lingering stars dot the sky.  Along the horizon, a pink glow begins.

These illustrations were rendered using watercolor, gouache, and crayon.  On the title page, a few strands of webbing are strung toward the title text along the bottom.  The remainder of the double-page image is an eloquent sky as the sun sets.  Each two-page picture throughout this title gives us either a panoramic view of a setting or brings us close to the 

creatures of the night.

Readers will be fascinated by the details, looking for the tiny inhabitants of forest and field with each page turn.  The plant life on close inspection appears somewhat exotic.  The first view of The Twilight Library is gasp-worthy.  When the Night Librarian begins the stories, we are shown a mix of reality and imagination in the visuals.  Will readers notice the added detail to the appearance of the forest and field beings as the stories are told?

One of my many favorite illustrations is when we are very close to two fireflies going to The Twilight Library.  The flowers, leaves and stems are enlarged, filling all of the right side and along the bottom on the left portion of the picture.  Above the flowers, leaves, and stems on the left are a wide array of shimmering dots.  Above them are the fireflies surrounded by glowing balls.  There is a deep blue sky with a few seeds drifting on the breeze.

After reading this book, The Twilight Library written by Carmen Oliver with illustrations by Miren Asiain Lora, readers will wonder how many such libraries are hidden in the gardens, parks, fields, and forests surrounding their homes.  If they allow themselves to truly imagine, perhaps they might believe there are Twilight Libraries everywhere around the world.  The beauty of the words and images in this title recognize and uplift the power of story.  You will want a copy of this book in your professional and personal Twilight Libraries.

To learn more about Carmen Oliver and Miren Asiain Lora and their other work, please access their websites by following the link attached to their names.  On Carmen Oliver's website are downloadable resources for this book.  Carmen Oliver has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Miren Asiain Lora has an account on Instagram. Carmen Oliver wrote a guest post including the cover reveal for this book on author Cynthia Leitch Smith's Cynsations.  You can view interior images at the publisher's website and at Simon & Schuster.  At the publisher's website is a conversation with the illustrator about her work on this book.

The Twilight Library by Carmen Oliver and Miren Asiain Lora from Let's Talk Picture Books on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

The Difference Of One

Often you read the title of a book initially unaware of its specific content.  And, even though the punctuation does not indicate a question, you have questions.  You are also pondering probable answers to those questions.

We lost John Robert Lewis on July 17, 2020.  He was a man who never sought it, but was wrapped in a mantle of light and honor for his lifetime of accomplishments.  Certainly, there must be a lengthy list of truths to follow the first five words in this title.  Possibilities were whirling through my mind.   Because Of You, John Lewis: The True Story Of A Remarkable Friendship (Scholastic Press, June 7, 2022) written by Andrea Davis Pinkney with illustrations by Keith Henry Brown supplies us with a story each generation wishes for the next.  We wish for the world to be a better place for all and we wish for those who follow us to continue working toward that better place.

His name is as bright as the dawn filled with stars.

Tybre Faw.

Tybre Faw has a wish as radiant as his name.  He wants to meet Congressman John Lewis and shake his hand.  Hailing from Johnson City, Tennessee, Tybre has been schooled by his grandmothers and the Black Lives Matter movement.  This is a child filled with purpose and hope.

Upon first learning about John Lewis, Tybre reads all he can about this friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He reads about his youth as a sharecropper's son and preaching to his family's chickens.  He reads how John Lewis wanted to meet Dr. King.

He reads about John Lewis receiving the nickname of 

"Good Trouble". 

He reads about John Lewis's activities during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  He reads how John Lewis writes a letter to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and gets a bus ticket in return.  It is a bus ticket so John Lewis can meet Dr. King.  This is how their friendship begins.  This is how they both give memorable speeches on August 28, 1963 in Washington, DC.  This is why the duo are walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge on what is now called Bloody Sunday.

After Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s passing, John Lewis knew he needed to keep his friend's endeavors alive.  Each year he marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  This year, 2018, Tybre Faw has persuaded his two grandmothers to make the seven hour drive from Johnson City, Tennessee to Selma, Alabama.  In anticipation, he waits for John Robert Lewis to exit the Brown Chapel AME Church.  He wishes.  He keeps wishing.  He holds a sign thanking the congressman.

A wish comes true.  A hand is grasped.  Words are exchanged.  An invitation is extended.  A walk, together, is made across that famous bridge.  And, again, endeavors are being kept alive.  They live in the words of John Lewis's favorite poem read by Tybre Faw at the congressman's memorial service at Ebenezer Baptist Church.  Keep wishing, children, keep wishing.

Immediately two words come to mind each time this title penned by Andrea Davis Pinkney is read.  They are powerful and poignant.  The poetic sentences weave together the friendship of John Robert Lewis with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the friendship of John Robert Lewis with Tybre Faw.  Past and present blend with historic accuracy.  An uplifting undercurrent of hope runs through the entire narrative. 

Many times Andrea Davis Pinkney creates an enhanced impact by grouping thoughts and facts together in threes.  These are carefully placed within the text.  She also uses repetition to excellent effect.  When she describes the 1965 march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the strength of the relationship between John and Martin, it is stunning.  Here is a passage.

Hearing Martin's words lit a light in John's heart.

They flew straight
to John's wide-open hopes
and tucked themselves
into the deepest pockets of his understanding.

I want to meet that clergyman.
I want to shake his hand.
I want to tell Martin Luther King, Jr.
             exactly who I am.

                                    Me. John Robert.

On the front, right side, of the matching dust jacket and book case, we see John Robert Lewis standing tall, yet humbly, above a depiction of one of the commemorative marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  In front of them is Tybre Faw, holding the sign he carried as he waited outside the church in hopes of meeting John Lewis.  To the left of the spine, on the back, is an image extending to the flap edge.  It is a bird's eye view of thousands of marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  The bridge is shown right to left across the lower portion with the city buildings rising in the upper portion.  Water and trees fill the area between the two.  In the sky is a John Lewis quote:

"Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and
get in good trouble, necessary trouble.

The opening and closing endpapers are in a muted orange.  On the title page, there are a limited number of colors.  The full-page image presents a night with a full moon shining over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, now nearly empty except for a few vehicles.

Each of the double-page pictures rendered by Keith Henry Brown

primarily with watercolor and quill pen with black ink on smooth Bristol and D'Arches cold-pressed 140 pound paper, and then rendered digitally

elevates the text as well as supplies readers with a pictorial insight into history, then and now.  The portraits of Tybre, John, and Martin are thoughtful, meaningful, and moving.  The watercolor washes fashion a marvelous mix of light and shadow.  The black ink lines draw our eyes to the people and their reflected personalities.  

Often, Keith Henry Brown will place the people in a setting with relevant buildings in the background as well as a historical event.  If there are other people present, he will have them fade into the background, giving them a solid color while our attention is drawn to the main people in full color. He will also give insight into what the people might be thinking or reading.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a wash of red, blue, and green, all blending into a pleasing whole.  Bold, black lines outline the lower half of Tybre's legs on the day he met John Lewis.  His pants are cuffed at the bottom and a bit longer.  Tybre's new shoes are tied tight with laces. His feet are walking, walking forward, as his friend John Lewis would want him to do.

The eloquent words and radiant images in Because Of You, John Lewis: The True Story Of A Remarkable Friendship written by Andrea Davis Pinkney with artwork by Keith Henry Brown afford readers with a deeply personal and memorable portrait of John Robert Lewis and his friends Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Tybre Faw.  It is a story spanning decades and it continues to this day.  At the close of the book are two pages titled Two Journeys. One Dream.  These are followed by two pages dedicated to a Time Line Of The Life of Rep. John Lewis.  There is a half page of sources and further reading. One page showcases black and white photographs during the civil rights movement.  On the opposite page are color photographs of John Lewis and of John Lewis and Tybre.  The entire poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley is printed with these pictures.  I cannot imagine a personal or professional collection without a copy or two of this title.

To learn more about Keith Henry Brown and his other work, please access his website by following the link attached to his name. (For some reason, I am currently unable to link to the stated website for Andrea Davis Pinkney.)  Andrea Davis Pinkney has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Keith Henry Brown has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  On the Scholastic Reads Podcast John Robert Lewis is honored.  Andrea Davis Pinkney is present discussing this book as well as U. S. Representative Nikema Williams with her memories of Congressman Lewis.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Defining Welcome

In my adult life, I have bought and sold ten houses.  Last June I moved into the eleventh house.  In most of those homes, there was a small piece of paper on display I read everyday with these words:

The beauty of the house is order,
the blessing of the house is contentment,
the glory of the house is hospitality.

I am currently struggling with the first line as organizing my considerable book collection is time consuming, but this eleventh house is slowly becoming a home filled with a happy, tail-wagging canine and her human who both enjoy visitors.

Each individual holds their own meaning of home in their mind and heart.  In The Mouse Who Carried A House On His Back (Candlewick Press, August 30, 2022) written by Jonathan Stutzman with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault readers come to understand some of those definitions.  They also realize how houses become homes within the context of welcoming.

Vincent was a mouse with boots on his feet,
a hat on his head, and a house on his back.

He had traveled many miles and lived many places,
but today Vincent would live here,
because he knew it was where he needed to be.

Vincent stopped on a grassy hill.  The sky stretched as far as his eyes could see. He removed his boots, hat, and his house.

A weary and grumpy frog soon hopped toward Vincent.  Vincent offered his house as a place to rest.  The frog laughed.  Obviously, the house was too small, but peering inside it was definitely bigger than it looked.

As the day progressed Vincent was visited by a hungry cat, a rain-and-wind tossed family of hedgehogs, and a bunch of other animal residents of the forest.  Each time, the mouse would offer his house as a sanctuary.  Each time the animals believed the house was too small to accommodate them, but they were wrong.  The house grew and grew and grew.

As all the gathered beings were about to enjoy a feast in the soothing sanctuary of Vincent's house, there was a knock at the door.  It was now dark outside.  Standing at the door was a bear, a bear who was hungry and lost.  Vincent was his usual cheerful, inviting self.  The other animals were not.  Their voices rose in protest.  Vincent knew where he was needed and no one was going to change what he believed to be true.

With every reading the musicality of this story, in a blend of dialogue and narrative, by Jonathan Stutzman grows more evident. We are initially introduced to the main protagonist and his house.  Each time an animal appears we are reminded of this mouse's characteristics and the characteristics of his house.  Carefully chosen words clearly indicate the condition of each animal upon their arrival.  This is paired with a perfect suggestion by Vincent as to what his house offers.  There is a repetition of key phrases.  Jonathan Stutzman brings us full circle with his closing sentences.  Here is a passage.

Clouds billowed in the west, and in blew a family of hedgehogs---one by
one by one by one by one by one by one---each wet and tousled by a
mighty storm.

"Terrible weather in the valley," squeaked the youngest.

"Come in, come in!" said Vincent with a smile.  "I have warm blankets
and beds and a crackling fire."  . . .

The artwork on the open book case is a single vibrant image.  Vincent, moving to the right, has passed through a mass of stunning blooms covering the left, back, and continuing to the right of the spine on the front.  The house he is carrying on his back is the first of many cut-outs throughout the book.  What we see is a hint of the gorgeous opening and closing endpapers.  The array of blooms on these endpapers is stunning.

On the back of book case is text that would normally appear on the front and back flaps of a dust jacket.  At the top is a short description of Vincent and his house.  Toward the bottom we read about Jonathan Stutzman and Isabelle Arsenault. 

The floral display continues on the two-page illustration for the title page.  Here Vincent, on the right, has placed his house down for a moment.  Almost all the double-page pictures contain a cut-out of Vincent's house with sizes that shift.

These visuals by Isabelle Arsenault

were created with gouache, ink, and cut paper.

Her characters are highly animated with facial expressions indicating their particular moods.  Readers will be fascinated by their clothing.  Each time we look inside Vincent's home, there are added elements to make the interior more pleasing.  You find yourself looking in anticipation each time a page is turned.  Once inside the animals are relaxed and happier.  Readers will gasp at the four-page gatefold.  Be sure to look in the windows.

One of my many favorite images is when the cat and frog are already inside Vincent's house.  On the left, through the cut-out house, one of the hedgehogs is gazing inside.  There are now four hanging lamps with unique shades.  You can see the cat and frog's shoes, removed, as well as Vincent's boots.  The table is longer with more chairs and place settings.  The frog and cat are seated there enjoying a cup of tea.  There is now a brick fireplace with plates along the mantle.  A roaring fire there spreads warmth.  Two beds are in front of the fireplace.  Other beds can be seen on the left.  Spare blankets are stacked on a stool.  There are several rugs on the floor.

The first time I read The Mouse Who Carried A House On His Back written by Jonathan Stutzman with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault, I felt as though I had been presented with something rich and rare.  We are enchanted from beginning to end by Vincent and his uplifting spirit and kindness.  In his eyes, all are equal.  Hopefully as the animals leave his home, his generous spirit will go with them and us.  You can't help but wonder how Vincent knows where he needs to be.  This book is sure to generate discussions.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Jonathan Stutzman and Isabelle Arsenault and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Jonathan Stutzman has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Isabelle Arsenault has accounts on Facebook and Instagram.  At the publisher's website, you can view an interior illustration.  At Penguin Random House, you can see additional interior pictures.

Friday, August 26, 2022

What R We Going To Do?

Over the years most of us will enjoy sharing our lives with a pet.  Their companionship is invaluable, even though most of them cannot speak our language.  In fact some of the most peculiar pets are not even alive.  In 1975, Gary Dahl subsequently became a millionaire with his introduction and invention of the Pet Rock.  Cleverly packaged with instructions, it was an instant phenomenon.  In the early 1980s another kind of pet, this one a living plant, skyrocketed to fame.  Chia Pets are still being produced today thanks to Joe Pedott and his company.

Regardless of the kind of pet in your life, you probably would be as shocked as the protagonist in this story when she wakes one morning.  My Pet Feet (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, August 23, 2022) written by Josh Funk with illustrations by debut picture artist Billy Yong is an alphabetical quest.  Through a laugh-out-loud narrative with equally funny images, we journey to right a wrong realizing we need the total twenty-six member team.

Today I woke up and was about 
to feed my pet when---

"What happened to my pet feet?
I mean my pet feet.  Why can't I say 'FEET'?"

It seems that Doodles, this child's pet ferret has become her pet feet.  Pet feet?!  Scanning her room for possible answers, she notices the letter r is missing from her alphabet mural.  Running to her friend Lucas for help, this girl is in for another series of surprises.

The world minus the letter r has turned into mayhem.  Lucas is no longer her friend but a fiend.  She and Doodles run from a flock of cows (crows) seeking shelter at the doo (door) of the town hall, but they obviously cannot get inside.  In desperation, the girl and Doodles climb to the top of a cane (crane) beside the structure.

From this vantage point, she ponders this problem.  What has happened to all the eighteenth symbols of the alphabet?  In her frustration, she declares she does not want pet feet forever.  At Doodles' hurt expression, she hurries to apologize, but Doodles runs away.  She tries to catch him.  She tries to find him.  Doodles is nowhere to be found.  

Determined not to give up, she finally discovers him at a sandy beach.  Across and on the water, they spy a pirate ship.  Oh, yes my friends, a pirate ship.  Boarding the vessel after a swim, guess what they discover? Quickly, one letter r and a second letter r are given to Doodles.  Back home, everything is normal, or is it? Bedtime supplies the duo with another startling stumper.  

Stellar wordsmith Josh Funk presents readers with an instant dilemma.  It's not every day you wake up to find your pet ferret has been reduced to feet.  With a combination of first person narrative and dialogue, we traverse this mystery with the girl and Doodles.  The tension is heightened when it is apparent no one else notices this travesty except the girl and her furry friend.  Alliteration contributes to the fast-paced cadence.  Here is a passage.

"Come back!" I shouted.

I chased Doodles past a fog and toad,

by the old babbling book, down a tail,

and into a gassy field.

Digitally rendered, the illustrations by Billy Yong are as highly animated throughout the book as we see on the dust jacket.  (I am working with an F & G.)  The bright, light blue canvas spans the entire jacket.  By the wide-eyed expressions on the girl and her ferret we know, even before opening the book, disaster has struck.  To the left of the spine, within a circle we see the girl hugging her beloved pet, her whole pet.  There is a vivid green border around this image.  The first sign of this illustrator's cleverness and attention to detail are four bees buzzing in the lower, right-hand corner just to the left of the spine.  One of the bee's wings covers the letter r in Schuster.

The opening endpapers in a midnight blue feature drawings in a light blue.  They are elements created by the missing letter r.  On the closing endpapers, in a dark rust, the drawings in light brown showcase items after the letter r has been restored.

Billy Yong makes use of every single space to tell his pictorial story.  The double-page picture for the title page is a scene of the child's home with large palm trees to the left.  In one of the windows, she is waking up, stretching her arms, and yawning.  The top of the home's two windows are decorated with the likeness of the top of a ferret's head.  On the first two-page visual we get another hit of the conclusion to the story as we look outside from inside the girl's bedroom.

The images' sizes shift from double-page pictures to single-page illustrations and then to a series of smaller visuals to indicate a thought process.  Readers will enjoy the two-page vertical image when the climb is made to the top of the crane.  White space is used to excellent effect.  Careful readers will notice humorous details.  (I nearly fell out of my chair when I realized what was dragging a bagel across the street.)

One of my many favorite illustrations is the second two-page picture.  This is when the girl first steps outside her home.  On the street winding past her home and through the neighborhood, kids are racing by on go-cats.  These vehicles are pure fun.  The one on the left is close to readers.  The child in the driver's seat is having their best day ever.  Across the street on the right is a park.  Here a policewoman is barely holding onto a wild hose.  Water, in jet mode, shoots out the end as the hose twists and turns.

Author Josh Funk and artist Billy Yong have taken "what if" to hilarious new heights in My Pet Feet.  Certain to generate laughter in readers and listeners as well as promote discussions about the importance of letters, words, and language, this title is a welcome addition to the picture book realm.  You will want to have a copy for your professional collections as well as a spot on your personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Josh Funk and Billy Yong and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Josh Funk has accounts on Facebook, InstagramTwitter, and YouTubeBilly Yong has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and TwitterJosh Funk was a guest blogger at Tara Lazar's Writing for Kids (While Raising Them) earlier this year.  Billy Yong was interviewed several years ago at Character Design References.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images including the entire dust jacket.

Be sure to visit other stops on the virtual tour for this title.  You never know what you will learn.