Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Call Of The Sea

No matter how much we study and learn, they will continue to astound us, some more than others.  We think we know, given a certain set of circumstances, how they will act. With each feat, our admiration grows for members of the animal kingdom.

In 2016 an octopus residing in the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier, New Zealand decided it was time for a change of scenery.  Inky's Great Escape: The Incredible (And Mostly True) Story Of An Octopus Escape (Sterling Children's Books, November 7, 2017) written by Casey Lyall with illustrations by Sebastia Serra proposes an account of this clever getaway.  This octopus knew his capabilities, saw an opportunity and traded captivity for freedom.

Inky was the greatest escape octopus of all time.  He'd slithered his way out of every trap invented and lived to tell the tale.

All these escapes had taken their toll, so when fishermen caught him one day; he decided to go with the flow.  He ended up staying with another octopus named Blotchy at an aquarium.  Their days and nights were filled with fun and games and plenty of stories. 

Having lived in the aquarium for as long as he could remember, Blotchy found Inky's accounts of daring deeds a bit hard to believe.  One quiet evening when they were alone, Blotchy issued a challenge.  Inky accepted it with confidence, declaring it would be his best escapade ever.

A plan was designed by the masterful Inky.  As time passed Blotchy teased him, saying he was all talk and no action but Inky knew waiting was integral to the success of the operation.  An aquarium worker finally provided a sliver of possibility.

Using all his mental and physical skills, the eight-armed creature crept from the confines of both his tank and the building.  A trail told the tale of the triumphant avenue toward the open water.  Inky did indeed make history but a mystery remains. 

Using a marvelous blend of fact and fiction author Casey Lyall recounts an adventure to remember.  She provides a potential introduction and conclusion to the famous news headlines, answering questions readers might have about the escape artist and his tank mate.  Humor is interjected in the form of the games they played, hide-and-seek, charades and Crazy Eights, and the subtle mention of the bookshelves Blotchy maintains.

The conversations between Inky and Blotchy clearly indicate their different personality traits.  Her description of the magnificent disappearing act will have readers on the edge of their collective seats.  Here are sample passages.

Inky's limbs swirled as he hauled himself
along the tiles.  He forged ahead while the
"Incredible Idea for an Ingenious Escape"
unfolded perfectly.

All the creatures in the
aquarium had their sights
set on Inky.  They watched
his every move, hardly
daring to blow a bubble. 

The color palette used in the matching, opened dust jacket and book case will have readers grinning in pleasure.  The flora and fauna of the world in the aquarium invite them to reach for their closest reference books on residences of octopuses.  By placing the broken chains on either side of Inky, we know he is a one-of-a-kind octopus.  To the left, on the back in an extension of the scene on the right, Blotchy looks with respect and affection at a poster declaring:


Readers will love the raised elements and use of foil.

In shades of blue and green, ocean creatures swim on the different opening and closing endpapers.  In the first one, Inky is moving off the right edge.  In the final endpapers, the poster announcing Inky's accomplishments is set among coral and seaweed as the animals gather to read it.  The verso and title pages are a continuation of the opening endpapers with Inky leaving a trail of bubbles from left to right as he appears under the title text smiling up at the words.

Rendered in pencil and ink and then digitally colored the bright, spirited illustrations by Sebastia Serra span two pages.  To indicate the passage of time or separate incidents other smaller images are placed within the larger context.  Sebastia Serra alters his perspectives bringing us close to Inky and Blotchy and then giving us a larger view of the tanks within the aquarium.  This brings the story into our space.  His attention to details welcomes readers to pause at page turns.

One of my many favorite pictures is when Inky has taken advantage of the aquarium worker's mistake.  Most of his body is on top of the tank; a few arms are still in the water.  Inky is looking back at Blotchy and asking the octopus to come with him.  Oblivious to what is happening, the worker walks away to the right wearing headphones and carrying a ladder.  The fish in the tank next to Inky and Blotchy, on the right, are all pointing upward and watching the event.  The aquarium is dark except for two overhead lights shining on particular portions of the tanks.  Tiny explanatory signs are posted in front of each tank window. 

Inky's Great Escape: The Incredible (And Mostly True) Story of An Octopus Escape written by Casey Lyall with illustrations by Sebastia Serra vividly brings to life for the intended audience (and those of us lucky enough to read it aloud) a story of opportunity, patience and possibilities.  It highlights the truth, heightens our desire for more information and illuminates the power of inventiveness in readers and the author and illustrator.  Your professional and personal collections need to make space for this title.

To learn more about both Casey Lyall and Sebastia Serra and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  The cover reveal for this title with a short Q & A with the illustrator and author appears at This Picture Book Life.  Here is a link to one of many accounts of Inky's real life escape as noted by NPR.

Friday, November 17, 2017

On Center Stage

You recognize them as soon as they walk into your classroom.  There isn't a sign of glitter on them anywhere but they sparkle.  It's noticeable in the way they walk, the intonation of their voice as they talk, and in the combinations of colors and patterns on the clothing they wear.  They are making a statement with an air of assurance.

They can be five or fifteen, age is not a factor.  For them life is most definitely not a dress rehearsal and their world, wherever they are, is a platform for a performance.  Starring CARMEN! (Abrams Books for Young Readers, September 12, 2017) written by Anika Denise with illustrations by Lorena Alvarez Gomez is a look at an energetic girl and her equally energetic hermanito (younger brother) Eduardo. 

Carmen is a one-girl

She can act, sing, dance and design costumes.  She never tires of being in the spotlight on stage.  Every night she requires the attendance of her ever-so-patient and supportive parents at her show.  No two shows are alike.

Carmen takes every opportunity to practice.  This is what performers wishing to excel do.  Eduardo watches Carmen with affection and longing.  He wants to be a part of the shows.  Carmen is not eager to share the fame and glory.

As the newest show is about to start she determines Eduardo would be better as a lamp, wearing a shade over his face, than his original role of a rock.  Tonight the musical is rather lengthy; seventeen songs, slightly less dances and a bit of karate.  Poor Eduardo is not aware the show is over.  (How can you with something over your face?)

When Carmen requests an encore at dinner, her parents resist her urgings.  The next morning they try to cheer up a melodramatic Carmen, pouting at having only one show the previous night.  When she attempts to make a point, her mother counters with a fan letter from an admirer. 

Pirate play encourages Carmen to assume another position in the upcoming rock opera.  As the evening event is about to start everyone in the family appears to be happy with this production, especially Carmen.  There is nothing better than an inspired great surprise.

There is no denying the liveliness of the main character in this title when reading the words penned by Anika Denise.  To heighten the effervescence of the story, Spanish words and phrases are used with affection by Carmen's parents.  A blend of narration and dialogue contribute to the connection readers will feel with Carmen, her little brother Eduardo, and their parents.  The dialogue also informs us of the moods of the characters as well as the strength of the family unit.  From this we can see the gentle humor in more than one situation.  Here is a sample passage.

Dress rehearsals start early.
"Can I be in your show tonight?" asks Eduardo.
"Sure!  I'm the queen.  You can be a rock."
"How do I be that?" asks Eduardo.
"Don't move," says Carmen.

"Do I have any lines?"
asks Eduardo.

"Shh," says Carmen.
"Rocks can't talk."

You expect her to dance right off the dust jacket, singing one of her many songs.  Looking right at readers Carmen gives us a preview of her personality and presence on and off the stage.  The dazzling hues in the set, curtains and props, extend over the spine, unfolding like a Broadway musical presentation.  On the left, the back, gazing over his shoulder at his sister, Eduardo, holding a smiling star on a wand, is adding his share of magic to the show.

On the book case we get a peek at an interior illustration spanning edge to edge.  Carmen is taking a bow after her show.  Eduardo is not sure what's happening.  This is our first glimpse of the elaborate, inventive and vividly colored costumes and sets fashioned by Carmen.  The opening and closing endpapers are a rich, rose canvas.

Beneath the text on the title page, dressed in costumes, Carmen and Eduardo dance in pure happiness.  Rendered with paper, pencils, and Photoshop by Lorena Alvarez Gomez the illustrations invite participation in the story and generate ear-to-ear smiles.  Her full color images are frequently placed on a crisp white background to draw our attention to the included details.  They may be loosely framed.

Her pictures spreading across two pages are marvelous in their use of precise shapes, clean lines and colors ready to burst out of the book.  These ask the reader to stop.  They ask us to step into the lives of these family members.  We reply with an eager YES!

One of my many favorite illustrations is the one depicted by Lorena Alvarez Gomez for the text previously quoted.  The bodies of three sea dragons swirl and curl in shades of pink, golden orange and blues and greens across both pages.  Colored paper, scissors, glue, pictures, books and already completed fish surround Carmen as she works on one of the dragons in the center of the right hand portion of the picture.  Outside the gutter on the left, paper in hand, stands Eduardo.  Wide-eyed and hopeful he is asking Carmen to participate in the show.  She is looking up at him with skepticism.

We should all be so fortunate as Eduardo and his parents to have someone like his sister in our lives.  Starring CARMEN! written by Anika Denise with illustrations by Lorena Alvarez Gomez is in a word, exhilarating.  This character's passion for performing and positive perspective on life is contagious.  Her propensity to stand in the spotlight alone is tempered by her love for her brother.  Your patrons will be asking for this book frequently.  They will hardly be able to wait for the promised sequel.  I can't wait to read this one aloud. 

To learn more about Anika Denise and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  If you follow the link to the page about this title, she has activity guides in English and Spanish and templates for Starring CARMEN! crafts.  At the publisher's website they have printable activity kit pages.  I know you'll want to visit Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read., to enjoy the premiere of the book trailer and a chat with Anika Denise.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Making Magic For Her Boys

If you are fortunate, like I was, you grow up hearing stories.  Your parents tell you of their adventures as children, teenagers and adults before you became part of their world.  They speak of these things to create a familial bond with you; to give you an understanding of your heritage.  These tales are also meant to help you become the best person you can be; to assist you in realizing your potential.

There are other stories less truthful, born in their imaginations.  These transform hours, some of boredom and illness, into memories never forgotten.  There was an extraordinary woman, a mother, whose stories still hold their original magic today.  Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton (How Mike Mulligan's Steam Shovel And Friends Came To Life) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, September 5, 2017) written by Sherri Duskey Rinker with illustrations by John Rocco reveals how this woman used her remarkable gifts to bring joy to her two sons and other daughters and sons for generations to come.

This is Virginia Lee, but everyone in seaside
Folly Cove simply calls her Jinnee.
Anyone who meets Jinnee
will tell you that
she is quite

She has a way to coax colorful beauty into being in her gardens.  Animals, domestic and wild, see in her a friend they can trust.  When she dances, her shape seems to shift into whatever she wants us to see.  Best of all, when she draws, a spell is cast on all who view her work.

For her two boys, Aris and Michael, she pictures what they love best,


With her hands she brings to life a powerful train, a hardworking steam shovel, a tireless snow plow and determined cable car.  These machines' stories leave readers with timeless truths formed by their adventures and the work they do.

When Jinnee begins to draw a little pink house sitting on a hill with daisies and apple trees, Aris and Michael can see she has definitely strayed from what they enjoy most.  She asks them to be patient.  This little house is to be a part of an even greater adventure; one filled with the growth of a city and the machines who are a part of that growth.

In this book she shows the two boys how vehicles offer salvation to the little pink house.  She knows her two favorite readers and what they want and need.  She knew all of us too.

With each reading of this title penned by Sherri Duskey Rinker my appreciation for the accomplishments of Virginia Lee Burton grows.  The approach of beginning Virginia's story after her two boys are born brings a special connection to the intended audience.  Reminding readers of the admiration felt by the members of the Folly Cove community for her is a refreshing introduction to the magic of her talents as an artist and a writer.  Viewing her drawing and painting tools as a wand is genius.

When Sherri Duskey Rinker describes how Virginia Lee Burton creates the train, Choo Choo, the steam shovel, Mary Anne, for Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel, the crawler tractor turned snow plow for Katy And The Big Snow, and Maybelle for Maybelle The Cable Car it's like we are in the studio with her as she shapes and forms these characters.  With Sherri's words Aris and Michael are participants in each of these big machines' tales.  We watch and hold our breaths along with the boys as we see what is happening to the little pink house. Here are two passages.

And right before Michael's eyes:
A bucket loads and lifts, clearing
earth to make canals, cutting
through mountains for
railways, leveling land for
highways and runways,
digging deep into the
earth, making 

Smoke blows from her stack.
There, loud and proud, strong
and steely, always hard at work:
Mary Anne!

The first thing, the very first thing, I did upon opening the matching dust jacket and book case was study those champion characters from children's literature recalling their stories read and shared repeatedly over the years.  When my eyes moved to the left, on the back, there was the little pink house, the city grown up behind her and on both sides.  The subway moved beneath her and the train ran around her.  Smoke filled the sky as the charcoal like images shown are washed from top to bottom in a shade of blue to green and then yellow.

The opening and closing endpapers are in pale yellow with light blue images.  Gears are stenciled around matching elements on the left and right.  It's the little house with the apple trees and daisies on the little hill.  In a circle around it are the cable car, crawler tractor, steam shovel, train and the truck in a repeating pattern.  Beneath the text on the title page, John Rocco places each of the big machines and the little pink house with the truck pulling it back home.

Rendered in watercolor, colored pencil, and digital media the full-color illustrations truly take us back in time.  John Rocco presents us with large two-page pictures and single-page images flowing and golden, many of them moving from the left into the right.  To show us the artistic process of Virginia Lee Burton he gives us a bird's eye view of her working from farther away to very close through a series of six small pictures on a single page.  As she draws the characters for her books, it's a different technique for the presentation of each one but the key factor is the two boys are always a part of the visual narrative.  The meticulous research of John Rocco is clearly evident.

I have many, many favorite pictures.  One of my favorites is of the creation of Katy.  On the left Virginia is first standing in front of a blank page.  She then sketches outlines of a crawler tractor on several sheets of paper.  They are filled in with red.  Then a blade appears.  Along the bottom on the left the boys dressed for winter weather are following Virginia, now wearing boots, as she puts on a winter coat.  They walk through snow and falling snow to the right.  Katy is there in front of them, larger than life.  She is framed with blue swirls reminiscent of the cover on the original book.

Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton (How Mike Mulligan's Steam Shovel And Friends Came To Life) written by Sherri Duskey Rinker with illustrations by John Rocco is a book to cherish.  You will read it over and over again.  You will hardly be able to wait to share it with others.  And you will get copies of the Virginia Lee Burton books to read at least once more, to share with first time readers or to add to your collection.  You need to have this book in your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Sherri Duskey Rinker and John Rocco and their other work, please visit their websites (and Sherri's blog) by following the links attached to their names.  Here is the link to a special publisher website for this book. Travis Jonker, teacher librarian and blogger (among other wonderful accomplishments) at 100 Scope Notes, reveals the cover for this title.  Sherri Duskey Rinker and John Rocco are interviewed at The Horn Book about this title.  Sherri Duskey Rinker is interviewed at KidLit 411, Where The Board Books Are and HENRYHERZ.COMJohn Rocco is featured about this title at the BookPage and at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  Enjoy the video below.

Please take a few moments to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other titles selected this week by bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Do You Know . . .

There are books which fill readers with a surge of joy, welling up inside us and growing stronger with each page turn.  There are books you want to read aloud and alone standing in a grassy meadow at the top of a hill you navigate with difficulty.  There are books you wish to share in a sanctuary filled with people, reading each phrase slowly with purpose so those gathered together can feel the power of those words.

There are books brimming with glorious illustrations, lifting the narrative to new heights.  There are books with colors, patterns, light and shadow carefully pieced and placed together, singing off the page like a melody straight from the creator's soul to our hearts.  There are books with words and images complementing each other in such excellence they are engraved in our memories.  Hey Black Child (Little, Brown And Company, November 14, 2017) written by Useni Eugene Perkins with illustrations by Bryan Collier is all of those books.

Hey Black Child

Do you know who you are

You have potential to unlock all your dreams. Each time you try to follow those dreams, you are much closer to making them come true.  Listen.

There is a path for each one of you to follow.  It was started before you were born.  It is growing and changing.  As you travel lessons are presented to you.  When you endeavor to learn those lessons, you come closer to what you want.  Listen.

There is strength inside each of you regardless of your physical size.  You need to build on this strength.  It will support you, this inner power, in all you do.  Listen.

Children are encouraged to lift up their potential, take strides down the path and use the power each one has inside to accomplish everything they want to be and can be.  By doing these things and maintaining focus, the nation in which they live, will be a place of their design.  Listen.  

When read for the first time, the poem written by Useni Eugene Perkins urges you to read it again.  The words when read silently are indeed commanding but when read aloud they resonate long after they are uttered.  The repetition of the opening words ties each portion together with a call, a request to listen.

For these portions Useni Eugene Perkins forms the initial phrases as a question.   He then follows with another series of phrases which are part question but are mostly affirmations containing the promise of wonderful accomplishments to come in the future.  These portions are connected to the concluding words by emphasizing the central thought in each section as a statement.

Upon opening, unfolding, the dust jacket for Hey Black Child you are immediately captivated by the radiant beauty and heartfelt happiness on each child's face.  The blue rays, solid and patterned, are carried to the left, on the back of the jacket.  (I am working with an F & G.  My copy of the finished book is arriving tomorrow.)  The use of primary colors is continued on the back with the boy wearing a blue shirt and the girl wearing a top of blended primary and secondary colored dots.  Two balloons, one a larger yellow, with a smudge of red, and one red, smaller in size, float above the two children.  On a yellow spine, the four children are featured above and below the title text.

On a canvas of pale, washed blue, balloons in hues of green, yellow, blue, red, and orange drift on the opening and closing endpapers.  A much lighter version of the dust jacket background spans the two pages for the title.  Two of the children, a boy with his back to us and holding a paint brush as if he has painted the letters and a girl, thoughtfully gazing downward, holding her arms as if in a dance movement, are placed with three balloons moving off the pages.

These illustrations rendered 

in watercolor and collage on 400-pound Arches watercolor paper

and each covering two pages, edge to edge, are stunning.  The four children are featured from varying points of view.  In the greeting we are brought close to their luminous faces.  With a page turn past or current events serve as a link to the present.  In a subtle shift the future for each is shown leading to the conclusion.

Rays of light and balloons figure prominently in most of the images.  Bryan Collier has supplied an artistic bridge from one picture to the next; the boy is painting the girl dancing, the dancer plays a piano moving into the boy among trophies of people holding significant signs and then to a little girl with a telescope.  This illustration is when the present, a child, is shown in another child's future.  The final picture is full of hope and inspiration, a hand reaching upward, rays bursting among real children and past events.  

One of my many favorite illustrations is the first one.  On the left a collage of balloons rises from the bottom of the page.  Behind one of them the face of an African man, wearing traditional clothing, looks at us.  To the right on a pieced background of fabric or wallpaper is the first child, a boy.  His face covers most of the page.  You can see the bottom portion of a crown he is wearing.  His face, oh his beautiful face, is so full of joy you can feel tears of sheer happiness spring to your eyes.  The energy in this visual will lift you up.  

This book, Hey Black Child written by Useni Eugene Perkins with illustrations by Coretta Scott King Award winner and Caldecott Honoree Bryan Collier, is a title you will want to be a part of your professional and personal collections.  If happiness, hope, faith and love could be held in your hands, this book is the means.  In an Author's Note Useni Eugene Perkins speaks about this poem originally written in 1975 and its impact.  Bryan Collier has written an Illustrator's Note about what he hopes his art brings to the words written by Perkins.

To learn more about Useni Eugene Perkins I discovered an older interview at The History Makers.  At School Library Journal read Useni Eugene Perkins On Adapting His Iconic Poem into Picture Book Form.  To discover more about Bryan Collier and his other work please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  In 2013 Bryan Collier is interviewed at School Library Journal by Rocco Staino.  At Reading Rockets Bryan Collier speaks in a series of videos.  You are going to enjoy this video with Bryan Collier talking about Hey Black Child.

Monday, November 13, 2017

From a Blaze of Brilliance to a Blanket of White

With every gust of wind they rain down faster.  Swirls of gold, red, orange, brown and faded green fall.  A patchwork pattern of overlapping leaves covers the grass.  These colorful showers signal the passage of time in autumn 2017.  Only thirty-eight days remain until the arrival of the winter solstice.

There are now entire trees with bare branches lifting toward crystal blue skies one day and cloudy, gray vistas the next day.  September and October are memories.  Full of Fall (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, August 29, 2017) written and illustrated by April Pulley Sayre represents through poetic phrases and her signature photography the changes we witness as one season passes into the next.

September sun 
is low in the sky.

So long, summer.
Green, goodbye!

Whether you look at a large landscape as you travel down a path or road or focus on a single leaf in your own backyard, they herald change.  They are a reflection of what was and what will be.  The individual shapes of each tree are now outlined in their respective hues.

Shades of yellow, gold, orange and red hang like Nature's jewels on rough boughs of brown.  A canopy of color provides shelter from sun or rain.  Ponds, streams, rivers and lakes capture the array.

Run your hands over the bark on trunks.  Close your eyes and feel a single leaf or hold one up to the light filtering through the trees.  What message do they bring?

Soon the assistance leaves supply to trees is finished.  They let them go.  Now they nurture the dirt and water in a necessary cycle.  Their brilliance fades.  It's coming.  Snow.

As an astute observer of the world in which we live, April Pulley Sayre asks us, through her words, to notice the seasonal shift.  During those ninety days as our world spins from summer's end to autumn and then to winter, many small events contribute to the grand scheme.  Each one plays a significant part.

A series of phrases are joined by her rhyming words.  Some only have one or two words.  Others have six or seven. The cadences they create invite us to join her as we walk through the days of autumn.  Here is another sample passage.

Trees are ready.
Twigs let go.

Leaves slip
and spin.

Wind sweeps---
leaves blow!

Beginning with the opened, matching dust jacket and book case, we experience the full majesty of the transformation of autumn.  As you run your fingers over the front of the jacket, the title text is raised.  The large maple leaf has been given a matte finish in contrast to the glossy background.  It's as if we are touching a real leaf.  To the left, on the back, a squirrel scampers along a downed branch among a carpet of fallen yellow and brown leaves. 

The opening and closing endpapers are a rich, rusty orange.  On the title page an ancient stump, rings ragged and wide, provides a background for fallen leaves and text.  With each page turn a photograph raises our awareness of the variations revealed during this season. 

The point of view, through her camera lens, has us gazing through a field of browning grasses, light tipping the tops, watching closely as a squirrel grasps grass with edges blurred, or standing on the side of a pond, gasping in awe at the opposite shore lined with red, orange and yellow trees, their hues reflected in the water.  Some of the pictures span two pages and others are group by two or three.  The multiple illustrations on two pages are separated by thin white lines.  The placement of text is perfection.

One of my many favorite pictures spans two pages.  We are looking along a rough trunk of a tree upward as the branches stretch from page edge to page edge.  Patches of blue sky can be seen through the tiny yellow, gold and slightly green leaves.  It's absolutely exquisite.

April Pulley Sayre has a gift as a master poet and photographer.  She weaves words and images together in Full of Fall to fashion a sensory experience for readers.  This title, with the companion books, Raindrops Roll and Best in Snow, should be in every professional and personal collection.  At the close of the book two pages offer scientific explanations for particular phrases relative to leaves.  April Pulley Sayre also talks about Fall around the world and Never the same show.  She includes resources on the final page, an image of two beautiful leaves on bark.

To learn more about April Pulley Sayre and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  You will enjoy the backstory associated with this title.  At the publisher's website you can view several beginning interior pages along with the explanation pages at the close of the book. April Pulley Sayre is interviewed at PictureBookBuilders about this title.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Sunrise, Sunset . . .

There comes a time in your life, hopefully when you are young, when you awake in the morning a sigh of gratitude escapes from your lips.  As you step outside into the sun, rain, snow, calm or wind, heat or cold, you look around noticing light and shadow, shapes and angles.  You see normal but deep inside you know it's a collection of tiny miracles.

As you move through the hours of the day everything, where you go, the individuals you see and the things you do, reminds you, if you stop for the merest of moments, of the early morning thankfulness.  Good Day, Good Night (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, October 3, 2017) a never-before-published picture book written by Margaret Wise Brown with art by Loren Long is a gentle, affectionate poem of appreciation to the wonder of each and every day.

When the sun came up the day began.

One small soul, a bunny, saw it rise.  Greetings rang out, not just to one but to everyone.  It was time to bid the darkness farewell.

He looked up and saw the trees.  He looked up and saw the birds.  Bees busily flew away from their homes high in the trees.  The bunny's companion, a tiny kitten, got a cup of milk for breakfast.

The morning was in full bloom.  All the residents were asked to look for the wonder in this day.  All the residents were asked to give this day their full attention.  Live!

Later as the moon rose, another night started.  Greetings again rang out wishing creatures a pleasant evening.  Now inside the bunny bid his tiny kitten and teddy bear good night.  He wasn't quite ready to go to sleep.  He made sure inside and outside all those he knew received those soothing final two words.  Rest well sweet rabbit.

Margaret Wise Brown in this book lifts simple words into eloquence.  The repetition of good morning and good night as the bunny observes his natural world and daily surroundings supplies readers with a soothing cadence.  It asks them to find the same joy as the bunny does.  It's a lullaby.  It's a prayer.  It's masterful and beautiful.

The same tender, lasting charm we feel reading the words written by Margaret Wise Brown is elevated by the art of Loren Long.  The two friends, the tiny kitten and bunny each greet the morning and the evening.  The blend of the two parts of the changing skies is flawless.  Notice the light and shadows on the grassy hill.  See how the glow of the sun and moon highlights the characters' faces.  I don't know about you, but I want to sit on that hill with them.  To the left, on the back, the golden yellow from the sunrise provides a canvas for a tiny bee and Monarch butterfly facing each other.

Beneath the jacket on the book case, Loren brings the sunrise closer to us on the front and the night sky also closer on the left.  To have them opposite of their appearance on the jacket signifies a continuum.  A lush rolling landscape with a river winding through the created valley spans the opening endpapers.  The sky shifts from deeper purple to pale lavender and then golden yellow as the sun rises.  A single large tree sits in the open on one of the hills on the right side.  It is the base from which the rabbit town radiates.  On the closing endpapers night has fallen on the same scene.  Tiny pinpricks of light are seen around the tree.  Without a word being spoken the color palette for both of these says, "Hush, dear readers."

Rendered in acrylics on illustration board each image beginning on the title page, tells a story.  Beneath the text, the bunny sits up in his bed, holding his teddy bear, and sees the sun rising through his bedroom window.  All of the two-page pictures placed on matte-finished paper have a classic timeless quality.  All are shown in full color but four are placed on a crisp white background.

The brush strokes ask us to reach out and feel the soft texture they emulate.  The exquisite details ask us to stop and look at each picture carefully.  Do you see the tiny mouse in the window of the bunny's house as he greets the day?  The name of the newspaper another rabbit brings to homes is the Daily Warren.  The Harey Dairy truck brings milk.  During the morning two ladybugs walk along a branch.  At night they are tucked under the bird's nest.  The caterpillar seen in two illustrations happens to be a Monarch caterpillar.  Do you recognize the book one bee is reading to another at bedtime?  You can't help but smile when you realize why there are two holes in the roofs of the vehicles.  The bookends and bedside lamp in the bunny's bedroom are delightful.  Careful readers will spy the mouse again.  They will also recognize the spelling on the wooden blocks.

It's nearly impossible to select a favorite illustration.  They all are gorgeous.  One of my favorite pictures is when the bunny is getting ready to go to bed.  The use of green, yellow and red is predominant on the furnishings and window frames.  You realize where the flowers the bunny picked earlier have been placed.  It seems as if his toy animals are watching him pet the tiny kitten on his bed.  His teddy bear wearing a straw hat is ready for bed, sitting and waiting in the rocking chair.  A fire burns in the stone fireplace hearth.  (I would love to hang this picture on my wall.)

You will most definitely want to add Good Day, Good Night written by Margaret Wise Brown with pictures painted by Loren Long to your personal and professional collections.  This is a book to have at your bedside to read when you first wake up and right before you go to sleep.  It casts a spell of contentment and calm.

To learn more about Margaret Wise Brown and Loren Long and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Loren offers looks at his process for this title on his website.  Enjoy the book trailer and Loren's video about this book.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Conversation With Annabeth Bondor-Stone and Connor White

Authors Annabeth Bondor-Stone and Connor White, known for middle grade books The Pirate Who’s Afraid of Everything (Shivers! Volume 1),  The Pirate Who’s Back in Bunny Slippers (Shivers! Volume 2)  and the upcoming Time Tracers: The Stolen Summers to be released in May, 2018, are starring in a new web video series, The Truth About Libraries.  As you can see when you watch the video below, Connor has a lot to learn about libraries and Annabeth is just the person to guide him in making the right discoveries.  Annabeth’s calm, quiet, and confident presence in contrast to Connor’s overly exuberant, loud and skeptical personality provide viewers with an engaging blend of comedy and information.

If you’re like me after watching this first episode I had some questions I wanted to ask Annabeth and Connor.  Fortunately, they agreed to chat with me here at Librarian’s Quest.  I’ve got pizza dough rising and the sauce simmering, so I’m hoping we can all sit down and have lunch together.  If they bring their pug, I know Mulan will enjoy romping around the yard with her.

It’s a pleasure to meet you Annabeth and Connor.  

Connor: Thank you for having us and for that incredibly kind introduction. Maybe you could come with us everywhere we go and introduce us like that?

From reading your bios at your website you are both graduates of Northwestern University.  What were your areas of study?

Annabeth: We both studied Theater and I got a certificate in Creative Writing for the Media.

Connor: I also got a certificate, but it was for Most Pizza Consumed. I printed it myself and hung it on my wall.

In addition to authoring children’s books you both work with Story Pirates located in Los Angeles.  What can you tell us about your roles in the organization?  Were you part of the founding group in 2004?

AB: We weren’t part of the founding group, though Connor has been with the company since graduating college in ‘09. I became a teaching artist for the company in 2014.

C: I was originally cast in the New York branch and when we moved to Los Angeles, I became a national tour director and the Associate Education Director for the LA branch of Story Pirates. Through Story Pirates, we have worked with thousands of elementary students in California, teaching them creative writing and then turning their stories into sketch comedy musicals.

AB: If there is a better company to work for, we haven’t heard of it!

What prompted the two of you to make the web video series, The Truth About Libraries?

AB: Since our book Shivers! The Pirate Who’s Afraid of Everything came out, we’ve been fortunate enough to travel to schools all over the country, using comedy to promote literacy. Along the way, we've witnessed firsthand how incredible and unique every library is.

C: We wanted to showcase all of the cool stuff about the library that kids may not know about. Plus, we’ve met so many wild and wonderful librarians, we thought the world deserved to know them!

I enjoy in the first episode how you focus on the aspects of the materials being free, the adult staff being welcoming and well-read and the existence of story time.  So often those of us who have been in the field awhile, tend to take these things for granted but when you point them out in the video, they are pretty amazing.  Can you give us a hint of things to come?  How many episodes are you planning?

AB: Well, to be honest, Connor was pretty taken aback when he learned that libraries existed earlier this year…

C: An endless trove of great books and fun community events...all for free?? Could it really be true?

AB: We’ve completed four episodes of The Truth About Libraries, with more on the way in early 2018. In the first season, we learn that there’s more to the library than we could have imagined.

C: Including Ukuleles and a book bike that brings the library out to the streets of LA!

AB: At the end of the season, Connor finally takes the plunge and attempts to sign up for his very own library card. But does he get it? Does he even remember his full name? You’ll have to watch to find out!

Is a script written before filming begins?  Do you do the filming or do you have a cameraperson?  Do you do your own editing?  Can you describe the process?

AB: We write an outline of each episode, but we really leave it to the librarians to guide us. After  all, they are the ones who know why each library is so uniquely awesome. We’ve bribed some generous friends who have helped us with camerawork and editing.

C: But overall, it’s a pretty low tech operation. We shoot on our phones and Annabeth does most of the editing. I’m no help; I don’t even know how to how set my alarm. Fortunately, a really loud bird lives right outside my window.

On a completely personal note, I am confident my readers might like to know:

What do you enjoy most about living in Los Angeles?

AB: We’re fortunate to have a lot of great friends here who are writers, actors, and comedians - so there’s never a dull moment.

C: In the summer, we like to cram our pug and our friends into the car and hit the beach. And in the winter, we like to wear heavy coats and pretend it’s cold. Pizza is a year-round thing for us.

What are your favorite memories of libraries?

C: Storytime! I loved storytime with my elementary librarian, Mrs. Jewels. It felt like daydreaming but for the whole class. Last year, Shivers! was the most checked out book at my elementary school. Learning that was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.

AB: I spent a ton of time in the library in elementary school. My best friend and I had a book club… well, we were the only members, but we did recommend lots of books to each other! I remember we loved Half Magic by Edward Eager. We talked about that one for weeks.

Do you have a favorite children’s book?  What are you reading now?

C: My favorite children’s book is Don’t Bump the Glump by Shel Silverstein. I’ve always been inspired by the inventiveness and wordplay in all of Shel Silverstein’s books.

AB: I’ve got to go with Matilda by Roald Dahl. A girl who loves reading and moves things with her mind? Sign me up!

C: Right now, we’re reading Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky and Holes by Louis Sachar. They’re basically the same book.

How long have you had your pug? What is her name?

AB: Our pug’s name is Agador but everyone calls her Aggie. We’ve had her for over five years.

C: 39 dog years to be exact! She snores while she sleeps, which is most of the day. She has a whimsical mysticism about her and is a real source of inspiration. We are big fans.

I am happy both Annabeth and Connor were able to chat with me today.  I’ve gotten a huge dose of laughter, certain to last for several days.  I can hardly wait to see what the next episode of The Truth About Libraries will bring to viewers.

If you want to know more about Annabeth Bondor-Stone and Connor White you can access their website here.

You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter (@ABandConnor) or follow them around in person if you live in LA!