Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Listen For The Hum. Listen For The Buzz.

It's still early here in northern Michigan.  A frost advisory was issued for Sunday night into Monday morning.  The hyacinths have come and gone but the daffodils and tulips are still blooming.  Many of the fruit trees are blossoming but the buds on the lilacs are still tiny and closed.  Some of the peonies have large rounded globes waiting for more water and heat before opening. 

Still missing is the steady, singular hum of honeybees moving from flower to flower.  Seeing them is becoming far more exciting than sighting the first birds.  Seeing them means much to life on our planet.  The Honeybee (Atheneum Books For Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, May 8, 2018) written by Kirsten Hall with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault enlightens us as to the daily valuable work of these busy insects.

A field..
A tree. 
Climb it and see . . .

Fields of flowers stretch to the horizon.  In the stillness of watching, a soft sound floats on the air.  It's getting closer and louder.  It's like hearing one of the Earth's heartbeats.  It's a honeybee!

Its four wings, two in the front and two in the back, are creating a welcome song.  It searches in circles and loops.  It finally succumbs to the lure of the ultimate flower.  A flower filled with the sweetness of nectar.  First a sip, then the gathering begins.

The pollen hanging like tiny golden baskets from the bee are carried back to the hive.  A conversation and a dance take place with information exchanged.  The pollen, laden with nectar ,is chewed and chewed and chewed until it's thick and gooey.

This thick and gooey goo is stuffed into the honeycomb cells.  Four wings on multiple bees flutter like fans to cool and dry those stuffed honeycomb cells.  At last the bees have HONEY! 

Spring and summer sun pass and autumn coolness arrives.  A queen beckons to her workers.  Winter descends and residents of the hive rest.  They rest and move to protect the queen, sure in the knowledge when spring comes, their task begins anew.

The words of Kirsten Hall are as if she is holding out her hand, asking us to take a walk with her.  It's a whispered conversation inviting our participation.  Their melodious rhythm and gentle rhyming bring us with admiration into the world of the honeybee.  Here is a passage.

This is the flower the bee has chosen.
This is the flower the pollen grows in.
This is the flower, its color so bright,
its sweet blooming scent calls the fee from its flight.

Rendered using ink, gouache, pencil, and colored pencil by Isabelle Arsenault the illustrations throughout but beginning on the opened dust jacket will delight and invite.  Various hues of golden yellow are prevalent.  The shades of blue, green, red and pink create a harmonious blend.  The honeybee winging its way across the top looks as if he is asking us to follow.  To the left, on the back, the same worker in a field of soft golden yellow is pushing a huge globe of goo toward a honeycomb.  A look of accomplishment is evident in its facial features.  Spot varnish is used on both the front and the back of the jacket.  The honeybee feels fuzzy when touched.

The opened book case covered in deep orange, golden yellow shows the dotted, looping path of the honeybee from left across the spine to the right.  In the upper, right-hand corner it looks at us, smiling.  The opening and closing endpapers are done in a pattern of large black and yellow bands, like a honeybee's body.

Beneath the text on the title page the field of flowers extends from left to right in softer tones.  Isabelle shifts from images spanning two pages to single pages and then to a cluster of four smaller pictures.  She replicates and enhances the movement of the narrative with her illustrations.

We are among the flowers zooming in and out of plants.  We sit among the petals sipping nectar and collecting pollen.  Then we buzz into the darkness of the hive, completing the task and making the honey.  As the seasons shift we enjoy every change with the honeybee.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is inside the hive.  The background is a shadowed black.  It is a single page visual.  Two honeybees are speaking to "our" honeybee.   Larger than life they are asking questions and looking at us.  Every detail is delicate and delightful.  It looks as though they are wearing high white collars tied with a bow.  One of the honeybees is carrying a blue flower and the other is leaning toward the newly arrived, pollen-laden honeybee.

Marvelous to read for the lovely words and illustrations The Honeybee written by Kirsten Hall with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault is also a loving tribute to these necessary and amazing creatures.  A final page is a letter Kirsten Hall has written to readers listing the attributes of honeybees and how we can help them.  I am already planning on using this book with fiction and nonfiction titles referencing honeybees and bees.  Some titles I will use are Bee & Me, Honey, Please Please the Bees, Bear and Bee, and The Case of the Vanishing HoneybeeI highly recommend The Honeybee for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Kirsten Hall and Isabelle Arsenault please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Isabelle has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages.  School Library Journal includes this title with other books in a post The Buzz on Bees | The Hive, The Honey, The Hope.  Four years ago Kirsten Hall was interviewed on As The Eraser Burns

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Invitation

As a human being there is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing a child alone when a group nearby is enjoying the company of each other.  You see this more often than you would like as an educator.  With gentle suggestions on your part a connection is possible between the group and the boy or girl without a friend.

Wishing for a friend, reaching out to others, is not always easy but the results can be rewarding and last a lifetime.  Night Out (Schwartz & Wade Books, May 8, 2018) written and illustrated by Daniel Miyares takes readers on a magical journey of discovery.  Our dreams can change the course of our lives.

All alone.

A boy sits removed from the other boys at the dining room table at his boarding school.  Later, as the moon shines in his window, the light shows his wakefulness while the others are sleeping.  On a chair next to his bed, his turtle resides in its bowl. 

When the boy next looks at his turtle's bowl, his reptilian pal has vanished.  An envelope sealed with red wax is leaning against the glass of the bowl.  The words beckon to him.  His presence is needed.

Getting dressed, the boy climbs out the window next to his bed, careful to take a backpack.  Placing his helmet on his head, he rides his bike out the open gate of the school.  The path takes him to a wooden bridge crossing a ravine.  In the light of his lantern he is amazed to see his turtle but his size is increased.

Climbing on the turtle's back, they follow the light of the moon to a special cave.  Five other animals, five new friends, are overjoyed to see the child.  He is given a place of honor among them as they enjoy tea and sweet treats.  It's a celebration of friendship found.  As the next morning dawns, the boy dressed in his pajamas again is dispelling his oneness with words.

Carefully chosen phrases, eleven in number, tell an extraordinary story using the power of imagination.  If you are willing to dream, a precious reality can follow.  Daniel Miyaresspare use of text is like the invitation in the book.  It asks us to suspend reality and join in the boy's dream.  We do so willing.  Here are two phrases which follow each other.

A decision.

And a journey begins.

The first thing you want to do when you see the front of the dust jacket is to grab your snuggest, cozy blanket and curl up in your favorite chair.  You know Daniel Miyares has planned another wonderful experience for you.  It's simply perfect that it's a full moon night as shown by the use of the moon for the letter o.  As your eyes drift to the left of the opened jacket, lantern or moon light gives a glow to the opened invitation, envelope and a map.  The words

An invitation to adventure . . . 

appear above those three elements.

The book case continues with the darkened soft black background on both sides.  On the right we are given a close-up of the boy riding his bike toward us from the school, his lantern in his left hand.  The full moon is above his head.  You can feel anticipation growing. 

Daniel Miyares uses the opening and closing endpapers to begin and conclude his story.  The scene, the dining room, is the same but the seating and who is sitting where are completely different. Rendered in gouache and colored pencils on Strathmore paper each illustration is atmospheric leading us into the narrative.  With each page turn a special mood is supplied.  (All of the text is hand-lettered.)

Careful readers will see a sign of what is to come but paying close attention to the details in one of the images.  Daniel changes his perspective to draw us deeper into the boy's nighttime journey.  We are close to him as he climbs out the window but a large panoramic view shows us how far he has come from the school to the bridge.  Readers will be unable to stop from pausing at each picture.  The brush strokes, color palette, and use of light and shadow are breathtaking.

One of my many favorite pictures appears on a single page.  The walls of the sleeping room frame the large window next to the boy.  The twelve panes are placed in a pattern for large windows which open in the center like two doors.  The moon is rising huge and golden filling the entire window.  Fall leaves extended from the branches of a tree outside.  The boy is sitting on his bed looking out the window with his back to us.  The opened invitation is on the bed next to him.  Moonlight forms shadows on his bed and on the bed of the sleeping child in the bed next to him.  This picture is brimming with emotions.

I highly recommend you include this title, Night Out written and illustrated by Daniel Miyares, in your personal and professional collections.  It's beautiful in the gentle tale it tells of friendship and dreams.  For bedtime, a quiet time or a story time about nighttime adventures, this is a book you will want to read aloud.

To learn more about Daniel Miyares and his other marvelous work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Daniel has an account on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view beginning interior images.  To highlight another title, That Is My Dream!, Daniel is interviewed at The Children's Book Review.  Daniel has written an essay, A World of One's Own, at School Library Journal about the writing of this book.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

All Toes On Deck

Every culture has its own legends and lingo.  A particular group of people within a separate culture understand every nuance of their spoken words and individualistic body language.  To step into a culture without understanding the separate parts which make it a significant whole is like entering a foreign country.

Members of the surfing community know an A-frame is not a type of home, a Barney is not a purple dinosaur or Fred Flintstone's best friend or in the soup does not mean you are an ingredient in something to eat.  Author Aaron Reynolds (Nerdy Birdy A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, September 22, 2015) and Caldecott Medalist (The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend Little, Brown and Company, April 8, 2014) Dan Santat have partnered to create a rollicking, riotous masterpiece.  DUDE! (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, April 24, 2018) will have you laughing out loud as soon as you read the title.  Surfing and one word take on a whole new meaning.



Two friends, both having a love of surfing, have just greeted each other at the beach.  They can hardly wait to ride the waves.  Running across the sand with their boards firmly grasped in their hands, they yell the familiar word in unison at the top of their lungs.

As they paddle away from the shore to find a wave, they marvel at a pelican scooping up a fish for lunch.  One roars with laughter as the other shrieks with disgust when the pelican strikes again.  Then one of the dangers surfers fear glides toward them.  Beaver utters dude with an entirely different tone.

They are now swimming for their very lives on their boards.  A deep, quiet, tearful voice speaks as a shark towers over them.  Neither of them expects what happens next. 

Two bright ideas on the part of the beaver and platypus bridge a frightening gap.  A gigantic wave carries friends having fun, fast and furiously toward . . . DISASTER!  A third brilliant thought solves a problem.  You'll be giggling and grinning louder and louder at the results of the final two scenes.


With what can only be described as sheer genius Aaron Reynolds imagines and writes an entire narrative using a single word.  He asks his readers to use their best voices to give emphasis to the word based on the situation.  A word most definitely changes in meaning based upon the emotional charge given to it.  There is an art to this form of storytelling.  

As soon as readers look at the front of the dust jacket exclamations will be forthcoming.  The platypus and beaver are happy as can be.  They are doing what they love to do best.  The shark is also grinning. Given the tendency of sharks to be attracted to movement in the water, readers will not be expecting the narrative to unfold as it does.  The water and sky cross the spine to continue to the far edge of the back of the dust jacket.  This leads us to believe the two pals are far from shore.

The bold, bright colors and distinguishing shapes and lines of Dan Santat continue on the book case in red, cream and black.  The three characters, surfboards in hand are crossing the beach as a large sun sets on the red skied-horizon.  It's a stunning display.  Golden yellow covers the opening and closing endpapers.

Dan Santat alters between single page pictures and double-page illustrations depending on the impact needed for the scene and the word, dude!  In several of the settings an animated crab appears adding to the humor.  The color, size and shape of the letters are indicative of the emotional state of the characters.  Elevating the comedy even higher, the facial expressions on the characters and their body postures are absolutely wonderful, 

One of my many favorite illustrations is actually a series of four pictures grouped over two pages.  In the first one the beaver, platypus and shark are frozen in place wondering what to do.  Clearly the two friends can see this is no ordinary shark.  In the next picture the beaver says Dude! as a light bulb appears over his head.  In the next two visuals the platypus and shark are alone.  In the first the platypus is whistling as the shark splashes water.  In the final picture both are starting to think the beaver is not coming back.

This over-the-top funnier than funny book, DUDE! written by Aaron Reynolds with illustrations by Dan Santat, is also a sharp and skillful study in inflection and the power of pictures without words.  It is without a doubt, read aloud gold.  I highly recommend this for your personal and professional collections.  I can hear the laughter already along with requests for read it again.  

To discover more about Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Aaron maintains a Tumblr site also.  Both Aaron and Dan have accounts on Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view several interior pages.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Practice Can Make Perfection

It's not an easy lesson but it's based in truth.  It seems the younger you are, the more you struggle with the art of mistakes, the art of trying something over and over again.  It's a rarity if someone reaches their ideal after a single attempt.

When we see the end result, an accomplishment, we have no idea how much effort was given to achieve that outcome.  Newbery Medalist (The One and Only Ivan, HarperCollinsPublishers, January 17, 2012) Katherine Applegate in collaboration with illustrator Jennifer Black Reinhardt (Blue EthelMargaret Ferguson BooksFarrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, May 30, 2017) remind us of the endeavors prior to amazing and lasting deeds.  Sometimes You Fly (Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 3, 2018) asks us to never give up.

Before the cake . . .

Unless you are in the presence of the cook, you have no idea of the commotion in the realm of the kitchen prior to any portion of a meal being served.  Some desserts are particularly difficult, especially if you are not a culinary expert or a chef.  Babies find some activities like the act of eating something undesirable or struggling to find happiness in the hugging of a beloved toy more challenging than older children . . . usually.

If you are not a duck, the act of getting into wading pool is downright terrifying but it makes enjoying the sea much better if you embrace the wonder of water with comfortable caution.  Each act, regardless of how small, can lead to greater exploits.  We grow with every attempt.

Reaching out to people, supporting them and believing in them, can form permanent partnerships.  Academic achievement is based on study.  Being a member of a team requires dedication.

Raise your hand if you remember your driver's education teacher and all those lessons and the joy of driving alone in your first car.  Each time we try something new repeatedly, each time we overcome adversity, we get better at whatever we are seeking to do.  We get better at life.

An almost melodic rhythm is established with the twelve phrases written by Katherine Applegate prior to the five final sentences.  Two words, before the, are followed by a single word in these twelve phrases.  The single words are familiar to most of us.  Many of them are laden with memories.  The words in the second and fourth phrases rhyme.

With the five final sentences Katherine Applegate ties the phrases together and brings us back to the beginning.  It is done with love for her readers and the art of storytelling.  Here is the first of the final five sentences.

Each recipe we undertake
can rise or fall,
can burn or bake.

Rendered in ink and watercolor the art of illustrator Jennifer Black Reinhardt is tender, heartwarming and inviting.  As evidenced by the front of the dust jacket her delicate details, fine lines and realistic color choices ask us to join the characters in her images. Who wouldn't want to run after a flying kite?  To the left, on the back, two children within a loose circle are bending over a newly planted seed.  You can almost feel them willing it to grow.  A trowel and seed packet is lying nearby.  The girl is holding a watering can.

Without spoiling the book case for you, rest assured the theme of the book is portrayed on the front and the back on a canvas of another sunny day outside.  A bright, sky blue covers the opening and closing endpapers.  The dog shown on the front of the dust jacket gazes at the kite lying in the grass beneath the text on the title page.

A single page is devoted to a picture with Katherine's opening phrases.  These are followed by another single page, a wordless picture depicting the merriment found in success.  Jennifer's interpretation of the text goes straight to your heart.  Liberal use of white space frames the first picture but the second visual fills the following page.  A fine black line is used as a border.

For the final triumphant effect Jennifer gives us an expansive two-page illustration with an element soaring as if it's a kite.  A blend of small images on several pages and two-page pictures bring us to the final visual which will have readers wondering what might happen next.  There is a lingering feeling of suspense.

One of my many favorite illustrations follows the phrase

before the know . . .

A girl is tucked in bed but sitting up reading a book.  The scalloped headboard and footboard of her bed are softened in shadow as is most of the illustration.  We can see a goldfish swimming in a bowl next to her bed.  Stuffed toy animals are snuggled next to her.  A family cat sits on the bed.  An overhead lamp attached to the bed creates a cone of light in those shadows lighting her up as she reads.  This is a universal moment for many.

When you finish reading Sometimes You Fly written by Katherine Applegate with illustrations by Jennifer Black Reinhardt the first time and the second time (and all the other times) you feel your spirit lighten.  This is a book reinforcing the importance of making mistakes, learning from them and persisting.  Our efforts will be rewarded.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.

To discover more about Katherine Applegate and Jennifer Black Reinhardt and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Katherine and Jennifer are both on Twitter and Instagram. (Katherine and Jennifer)  Sometimes You Fly has its own website.  There is quite a bit of art on Jennifer's blog.  You'll enjoy the article at Picture Book Builders about why this book was made.  Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher, premiered the book trailer on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.  You'll want to read the interview of both Katherine and Jennifer there.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Walk To Remember

Every single day people walk from one point to the other within their homes, from their homes to school and places of work.  They walk on pathways designated for walkers or make their own trails through fields, forests or along waterways.  Some walk because they lack another mode of transportation.  Others walk for the exercise.  And many walk for the sheer joy of being able to walk.

For me, walking with my dog is a peaceful time to reflect on current events in my life, my country and the world as a whole.  It's a time to let our imaginations run free.  It's a time to absorb the out-of-doors using as many of our senses as possible.  Whatever prompts you to walk, most of us don't endeavor what one woman did in 1955.  Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail (Abrams Books for Young Readers, May 8, 2018) written and illustrated by Jennifer Thermes will leave you astounded at the tenacity of this sixty-seven year old woman.

Between eleven children, the clothes to wash, the cow to milk, the garden to tend, the occasional tramp passing through to feed, and one husband, Emma Gatewood rarely got a break.  But, sometimes, she found a way to escape.

This way to escape, rambling walks, was the fuel which fed the fire burning in Emma when she decided to hike the Appalachian Trail.  This trail began in Georgia and ended in Maine.  Emma was the first woman to walk the entire trail alone.

Starting on May 3, 1955, wearing canvas sneakers, she survived with little in her bag eating and drinking what she found along the trail.  She usually slept under the stars.  As you can imagine the trail passed through all kinds of terrain.  Sometimes Emma got lost but she found her way again and again.  Most of those folks she encountered along her walk were gracious and generous.

She often found the kindliest welcome from the poorest of families.

By July 6, 1955 Grandma Gatewood had reached Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.  It was considered the "mental" halfway point.  No matter where the trail took her or the weather, nothing stopped this woman.  Soon reporters were greeting her at one point or another point.  Everyone it seemed wanted to know about this courageous and determined woman.

As the summer wore on, the weather took a turn for the worse.  A hurricane was set to batter the East Coast.  For Emma, with no contact to the outside world, it was the worst kind of weather she had faced.  That night Grandma Gatewood did something she rarely did and the next day kindness was given to her.  Regardless of who she met, she loved being alone the best.

By August 22, 1955 this remarkable woman was in New Hampshire.  She was nearing the end of her travels.  Her body was battered, one of the lenses in her glasses was cracked but she climbed to the top of the last mountain on September 25, 1955.  You won't believe what she did.

What we learn of Emma's life on the first page before she is sixty-seven is just enough to peak our interest.  Even before we are turning the page, we are wondering how someone survives all her daily tasks.  Jennifer Thermes moves us forward years later with the beginning of the memorable hike.

On the first of five mapped two-page spreads we gain further insight into the trail and Grandma Gatewood's progress.  These special pages are interludes leading us into a more detailed narrative with specific details.  As a combination they propel us forward, fascinating us again and again.  Here is a passage.

Emma wore canvas sneakers and carried a homemade sack, packed lightly.  She ate berries from the side of the trail and drank from cold mountain springs.  She rested under trees and on top of rocks warmed by a fire.

Some nights, the sky was so big and dark that Emma was afraid to sleep.  Other nights, she curled up on a soft bed of leaves, with plenty of mice to keep her company.

Emma hoped to avoid meeting a bear . . . 

There is no mistaking the signature style of Jennifer Thermes.  Her choice of color, fluid lines, attention to detail, love of maps and portraits of people draw us into whatever story she is visually telling. On the front of the dust jacket the blend of map with topographical elements is a direct invitation.  To the left, on the back, three interior images are displayed above a quote by Ben Montgomery, Pulitzer Prize Finalist and author of Grandma Gatewood's Walk.  

The book case will take your breath away.  It's a beautiful rendering of Grandma Gatewood hiking at night over rolling hills.  Beneath her path is another rolling hill with a line of evergreen trees along the bottom.  A star-studded sky lights her way.

On the opening endpapers Jennifer gives us a partial map of the United States with the focus on the Appalachian Mountains and the trail.  The closing endpapers depict a timeline of events in Emma's life and significant historical events.  All the text on these pages is easy to read and understand.

The verso and title pages feature Grandma Gatewood on a mountain top sitting on the edge of a cliff.  She is gazing at the vista spread before her. The illustrations by Jennifer were created using watercolor and colored pencil on Fabriano hot press paper.

The size of the illustrations shifts between two page pictures, single page images and groups of smaller visuals representing the passage of time.  Jennifer moves us close to a particular scene or moves us father back, altering the perspective in accordance with the text and pacing.  As we look at each illustration we get a true sense of the emotional moments felt by Grandma Gatewood.  We feel as though we are beside her, walking and walking and walking but also gaining a deeper respect for our world.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It's a full moon night.  On the right the full moon is so close you feel as though you could pluck it from the sky.  Jennifer has swirls of blue filled with stars radiating from it.  Several gentle hills are beneath it.  On the left, Grandma Gatewood is resting on a high mounded hill.  Her head is on her bag.  A striped blanket covers her body.  She is still wearing her canvas shoes.  Her walking stick is next to her.  She is smiling at the moon, soaking up the deep calm of the night.

When I first read this book, I had to share it immediately with someone, so I did.  I conveyed the true marvel of this woman's accomplishments by reading aloud Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail written and illustrated by Jennifer Thermes.  No one can help but be astounded, especially when viewing the wonderful images.  I highly recommend this title for your professional and personal collections.  Jennifer has two pages of notes at the close of the book with thumbnail sketches along the top and bottom.  She talks about Emma and the Appalachian Trail. She also includes selected sources.

To learn more about Jennifer Thermes and her other work, you can follow the links attached to her name to access her website and blog.  Jennifer maintains accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  I think you will find her Pinterest boards very interesting.  Jennifer and this book are featured on Celebrate Picture Books.

If you haven't visited Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by Alyson Beecher this week, take a few minutes to view the titles chosen by others participating in the 2018 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Wide Awake World

Yesterday morning the exchange of chickadees' conversations and the buzzing of insects serenaded my furry friend and me on our morning walk.  Hours later in the evening the view during a thirty minute drive had altered considerably.  The change was stunning and unbelievable with shades of green and patches of color spread over the landscape.  It was as if a magic wand had been waved over everything.  A group of five deer scampered across the road.  Later a lone doe casually walked in front of the car and stopped to watch.

Each day the changes expand and are more startling. This morning the arrival of returning Sandhill cranes was announced with their signature bugling.  Spectacular Spring: All Kinds Of Spring Facts And Fun (Henry Holt And Company, February 27, 2018) written and partially illustrated by Bruce Goldstone acquaints readers with an array of seasonal sensations.


Green plants and colorful
flowers begin to grow.

Animals shake off the cold
of winter.

People start spending more
time outdoors.

The additional length of daylight and the shorter nights are leading us day by day to the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. We get to shed our warmer clothing and exchange it for proper spring attire.  The snow squalls are replaced with thunderstorms and rain showers.  How many of you have carried an umbrella on a windy day to have it suddenly turn inside out?  (Although the results leave you rather wet, it is funny to see happen.)

If you are fortunate to be outside in the rain, with the right conditions, a rainbow will arch across your view.  As you continue to examine this new season try, with caution and knowledge, to experience the sensory perceptions.  We are asked to feel soft new grass, the warm wind and the squishy mud.

What kind of blossoms do we see?  Is that forsythia?  Gardeners' bulbs planted in the fall pop through the dirt in the form of tulips, hyacinth and daffodils, to name a few.  You will be rewarded if you take the time to smell each one.  Seeds, having traveled by a variety of methods or planted by machine or hand, move the soil aside to grown.

With spring come animal babies.  If you are lucky a bird will build a nest nearby so you can watch the evolution of new life.  Other animals wake up from their winter rest or return home.  Every living thing is stirring anew, even you.

With the first three sentences, three facts reveal noticeable truths about the season of spring.  Bruce Goldstone continues to challenge us with observable shifts from winter to spring.  He speaks about the differences in light and darkness, our clothing and the weather.  He asks us to use our senses by focusing on how things feel, what we see, how they smell, the shapes found in spring and sounds heard in spring. He contributes more than one page on seeds and baby birds.  His information is easy to understand and reads as if we are in conversation with him.  Here is a paragraph with the heading


Spring is a great time to 
close your eyes and sniff.
Smells travel more easily
in warm air than in cold
air.  As spring days get
warmer, you'll find many
fresh new smells when 
you walk outdoors.

The matching dust jacket and book case are a vibrant collage of sights seen in spring.  On the front we are given a view of spring bulbs blooming, and ladybugs creeping framed in an assortment of leaves.  It's clever to have the letters look as though cut from leaves.  To the left, on the back, amid green grass are five flower shapes.  They show other highlights of spring and the two previous seasonal titles by Bruce Goldstone, Awesome Autumn and Wonderful Winter.

A bright, bold nearly neon green covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Another seasonal scene similar to the front of the jacket and book case frames the text on the title page.  Each page turn reveals marvelous photographs, some taken by the author and others from shutterstock.com.  Many of them span two pages.  Others are placed on a crisp white background drawing attention to the individual elements.

Cutouts are used to frame photographs.  Some of them share space with individual pictures.  Each composed collage invites readers to pause as if taking a walk outside.  The design is as fresh and new as the season, illuminating, respectful and playful.

One of my many favorite pictures spans two pages.  A downpour of rain on a dark surface provides a canvas in dark colors with crystal drops.  The large text on the left and right is a single sentence divided in two.  Beneath the second section is a virtually black umbrella.  It supplies a place for the text describing why we get rain instead of snow in the spring.

This title, Spectacular Spring: All Kinds Of Spring Facts And Fun, written and partially illustrated by Bruce Goldstone is a companion title in one of my favorite series on the seasons.  It welcomes readers to the narrative, information and the changes this season brings.  At the close of the book, Bruce Goldstone includes six activities and how to do them.  You will certainly want a copy of this title for both your personal and professional book collections.

To learn more about Bruce Goldstone and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  At his website there is a place where Bruce gives you the opportunity to contact him.  He states:  I love to hear from readers.  At the publisher's website you can view eight wonderful interior pages.

Monday, May 14, 2018

To Be Perfectly Honest

In sporting events athletics, whether individually or as a member of a team, are constantly aiming for the flawless play, run, catch, swing, jump, routine, kick or shot.  They practice and practice and practice until one day the magic happens.  There are others who pursue their passions aiming for perfection; the exemplary musical melody, piece of art, compilation of words, architectural design, brick wall, perennial garden, or the most successful surgery or the most delicious fruit or vegetable ever tasted.  If you love what you are doing, you will continually aim high.

Will perfection be attained?  For some yes, for others the act of trying is a form of the ideal.  A shapely character introduced to readers in Triangle (Candlewick Press, March 14, 2017) returns in a companion title called Square (Candlewick Press, May 8, 2018) written by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Jon Klassen.  Square's friend, Circle, makes a request he is not sure he can honor.

This is Square.

Square has a secret cave with a square entrance in a large mounded rock.  Square's daily task is to take a square rock, a block, from down in the depths of his cave.  He pushes it with great effort up a hill.

At the top of the hill, he adds it to a stack of other blocks.  This is simply what he does.  As he is pushing a block up the hill one day, his friend Circle, glides up to him.  She believes him to be a great sculptor.  Square does not know what a sculptor is.

Circle is so excited by the shape of the block being identical to the shape of Square, she requests he make one of her.  He tries to tell her he is not as creative as she thinks he is but she has left.  This is a true dilemma for Square.

With hammer and chisel in his hands, Square begins his task but nothing works.  Soon he is in the middle of a disaster.  He is exhausted from his efforts, falls asleep and does not wake up until morning.  He realizes he is wet.

As Square stands wondering what he is going to do, Circle arrives.  She asks a question and Square replies.  She does not deter from her original assessment of Square.  She declares him a genius as she happily goes about her day.

Your enjoyment of this story does not diminish with repeatedly readings.  You find yourself smiling each and every time.  Mac Barnett gives us simple sentences but a subtle undercurrent of humor runs through the excellent blend of narrative and dialogue.  The contrast between what Circle assumes is true about Square and his conversations with her elevate the laughter factor.  He is honest enough in his thoughts to be worried about Circle's opinion.  Here is a portion of a passage.

He was surrounded by rubble.
"Whatever is the opposite of perfect,
that is what this is!  I must stay up
all night and figure this out!

A cream, matte-finished nine by nine inch cover displays Square on the front, wide-eyed, waiting and wondering.  There is something about his eyes which will have you, too, waiting and wondering.  Your anticipation is growing already.  To the left, on the back, Square's back is to readers.  His back is used as a place for four sentences giving us a hint of what we may encounter inside the book.

The opening and closing endpapers are a pale, mint green.  On the title page a tiny version of Square is placed between two clusters of rocks with delicate leaved-branches among them.  His eyes are looking to the right, inviting us to turn the page.  To the left on the verso page, all the text is placed within a square-shape.

The illustrations by Jon Klassen rendered digitally and with watercolor and graphite convey much with the placement of the elements.  (The use of the cream-colored space is outstanding in supplying pacing.)  Some are single page pictures, others cross the gutter and some extend over two pages.  We never see legs on Circle, she floats in and out of scenes.  We rarely see arms on Square and the only time we see an arm on Circle is when she and Square are giving a one-handed wave to us at the end on the dedication page.  The information about Mac and Jon which would normally appear on the closing flap is shown beneath the duo.  You will laugh when you read it.

One of my many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  Square has hammered and chiseled and chiseled and hammered a block until he is surrounded by bits and pieces of it.  What the text does not tell us is when he started this project, it also started to rain.  Now he is standing in a downpour.  A twig with two leaves is stuck to the top of his head.  His eyes are wide open but the dots are much smaller.  His hands, one holding a chisel and the other holding a hammer, are lifted in despair.  The bits and pieces of the block have formed a barrier which is holding water.

I can't imagine a professional or personal collection without a copy of Square written by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Jon Klassen.  This commentary on perfection and the joyful accident of reaching a goal is brilliant.  It shows us beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.

To learn more about Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen and their other work, please access their sites by following the links attached to their names.  At Penguin Random House and Candlewick Press you can view interior images.  Candlewick Press has posted a short Teacher Tip Card. Please take a few moments to read the Publishers Weekly The Shape of Things to Come from Award-Winning Picture Book Team and an interview with Mac and Jon at Art Of The Picture Book.  Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are interviewed on NPR Books about this title.  Enjoy the video.