Quote of the Month

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

Monday, July 31, 2017

New Pooch In Town

Children all around the world continuously cheer the existence of grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles.  Their appearance and role in gals' and guys' lives is one of constant support and surprise.  When you think they are as predictable as sunrise and sunset, they do something out of the ordinary changing your whole life.

There are probable millions of children who would never have the pleasure of enjoying life with an animal companion if it were not for these fearless family members who bestow them on grateful relatives.  Once they get over the shock most parents welcome the new addition.  Acclaimed author Patricia MacLachlan, who willingly includes dogs as characters in many of her books, presents a new early chapter book series, Barkus Book 1 (Chronicle Books, June 6, 2017) with cheery illustrations by French artist Marc Boutavant.

On a windy day, my favorite uncle, Uncle Everton, knocked on our door.  He wore a long plaid overcoat and black wool cap.

Uncle Everton was not alone. He brought Barkus, a very large, exuberant brown dog, as a present for his niece, Nicky.  Barkus was very clever, gifted in the trick department and did not bite.  To Nicky's way of thinking Barkus was perfect.

On the following Monday Nicky had to go to school assuring Barkus she would be home before he knew it.  Nicky kept turning around, sure she was being followed but no one was there.  As soon as she walked into her classroom, Barkus ran in behind her.  Barkus barked when Mrs. Gregolian wrote DOG on the blackboard.  (I told you he was clever.)

One day the mail brought a gift for Barkus, a treat from Uncle Everton for his birthday.  A snow day spoils plans for a party but that night a saddened and quiet Barkus has a wag-tastic gathering courtesy of unexpected guests.  It was a happy hubbub for everyone (even Mom and Dad).

Spring and spring vacation came but it was unexciting until Barkus brought home a baby...kitten.  Signs, phone calls and a whole lot of hope resulted in another change in Nicky's home.  To close this five chapter book, three friends discover the thrill of an overnight adventure in the backyard and the riches to be found in a story grown straight from the heart.

Some books seem to be better when you read them silently alone and others are better when read aloud with others but there are some remarkable books when read either way the story goes straight to the reader's heart.  Patricia MacLachlan is one of those authors capable of writing this type of narrative.  Many times when reading these short but delightful chapters, I found myself stopping to read a passage out loud.

Her gift is to create a seamless flow from event to event in this book.  Each of these episodes ties together with a rhythm formed by word choices. We become emotionally attached to the characters through the narrative and dialogue, experiencing their every mood.  Here is a sample passage.

Spring had come and it was vacation.
I was bored.
Barkus was bored.
"Barkus needs something new and exciting," I said.
"I don't think Barkus needs something new and exciting," said father.
But he was wrong. 

One of the first things readers will notice about this title is the trim size.  It fits perfectly in the hands of the intended audience.  The splash of yellow dots spans both sides of the opened dust jacket on white canvas.  The array of colors in the title text introduces readers to the color palette used throughout the book.  The expressions on Barkus's and Nicky's faces, along with their high-five, tell a story too.  I think it's safe to say, they are the best of friends.

The red hue used in the title text becomes the background for the book case.  A close-up of a joyful Barkus is drawn in black on the front and crosses the spine a bit to the left. A blend of multi-colored smaller dots covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Beneath the text on the title page Nicky is painting pictures of her two new friends.  The canvas for this image is the same bright yellow as the dots on the jacket.

Illustrator Marc Boutavant alters his picture sizes in keeping with the storyline.  He may give us a single page picture, an image which crosses the gutter or a series of smaller visuals to signify the rambunctious natures of Barkus and Nicky.  When he uses both pages it's to heighten the emotion of total merriment.  Readers will enjoy the wide-eyed looks on the characters.

One of my many favorite illustrations is on Barkus's birthday, the snow day.  Marc Boutavant has placed three images on a single page.  Nicky and Barkus are playing in the snow.  At the top they start to run with Barkus watching Nicky.  Her eyes are closed in complete bliss.  In the next scene they are jumping.  This time Barkus has his eyes closed.  In the final picture the pals are belly down in the snow, eating it.  This is how you enjoy winter.  This is how you enjoy life.

Barkus written by Patricia MacLachlan with illustrations by Marc Boutavant is a wonderful beginning to a marvelous early chapter book series.  Readers (this one included) will be more than ready for the next set of adventures shared by these two best buddies.  You will want multiple copies on your professional bookshelves and at least one for your personal bookshelves.  I plan on having a couple of copies to hand out for Halloween.

At the publisher's website you can view interior images.  They have also created a teacher's guide.  Here is a link which speaks about Marc Boutavant when he visited the United States in 2013.  Marc Boutavant is featured by author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast and by author and blogger Cynthia Leitich Smith at Cynsations.  As I did in a recent post for another Patricia MacLachlan book, Someone Like Me, here are two of my favorite videos featuring this versatile author.

Friday, July 28, 2017

To Fabulous Fathers

There is not a day that passes without me thinking of my dad.  Something will trigger a memory of something he said or something he did.  There was nothing that man could not mend.  More than twenty years have come and gone but the sound of his laughter rings inside my mind as if he's in the room with me.

I can still see him sitting after a hard day's work in "his" chair reading one of his beloved historical fiction titles.  After reading My Daddy Rules the World: Poems about Dads (Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt And Company, May 16, 2017) poems and illustrations by Hope Anita Smith, my deepest desire is to be able to read these poems to him.  They speak of the love children hold in their hearts forever for their fathers.

My Daddy
My daddy is a porcupine
with whiskers that are prickly.
My daddy is an octopus
who finds where I am tickly.

Four more animals are likened to this child's daddy.  He lifts high, encourages flight, stays up late and hugs with a hug that says he will never let go. In the next reflection a child speaks about how he silently goes about the house because his daddy is sleeping.  To close the poem, the humor sneaks in as he describes the noise his father's snores make.

A father gets up early to make a special breakfast for his child.  There is something deeply spiritual in this kind of communion; a meal and a conversation shared only by two.  For those children whose dads are away, a letter and a prayer are sent.  Is there anything more fun or anxiety-causing than a haircut at home....by a dad?  Dancing on daddy's feet, lifted twirling in the air, and those wrestling matches when you win are moments firmly filed in the good times folder.

Those days into evenings when you wait patiently and then with sadness for dad are never easy but then the magic happens.  Perhaps the street is lined with trees or buildings or the road with rows of corn but it's all the same when you and your dad work together to make the first bike ride happen.  A dad's anger, his disappointment, is hard to hear but his love despite this is steadfast.

Different dads have different occupations but one job makes this child happiest.  Dads never stop doing what they believe is best.  Dads pass on beloved rituals from generation to generation.  Each dad looks at the world in a way that makes them a hero to their child.

No matter how many times I read and reread these fifteen poems written by Hope Anita Smith what remains unwavering is her knowing; knowing how each child, the child still in adults, feels about and remembers their dads.  She has placed universal truths on these pages conveying the essence of the relationship shared by fathers and their daughters and their sons.  The voice of the child narrator rings with clarity, conviction, confidence and most of all, love.  Her use of rhyme, free verse and questions and answers creates a heartwarming cadence and welcomes reader participation.  Here are the final four lines in the poem My First Book.

Dad and I are readers.
We are word men, through and through.
I hope you have a dad like mine
who loves to read to you.

Created with torn paper the illustrations, beginning with the matching dust jacket and book case, portray the same marvelous oneness as the text.  All readers can see themselves in these images; they connect us further to the poems.  This is a book for all of us.  Look at the dad's hand lifting up his son's chin.  That single act says look at me and know that what I say will stand the test of time.  I think the way the two figures frame the text is brilliant.

To the left, on the back, a father bends and grabs the seat of his daughter's bike as she rides a two-wheeler for the first time.  The pale blue background used on the jacket and case create a sense of calm.  It is a darker, richer, hue of blue on both the opening and closing endpapers.

Most of the pictures are on a pristine white background highlighting the varied, colorful papers used by Hope Anita Smith.  The sizes may span an entire single page, cross the gutter in varying degrees, or stretch across both pages.  To elevate the design Hope places additional pieces of paper above, below or along the sides of the text.  There is a fine line of white between each piece of paper.

I love that there are no features on the faces of the individual people.  This frees the reader to take the emotion from the poems and fashion the expressions themselves.  This is a gift from Hope Anita Smith to us.

One of my many favorite pictures is of the child watching his daddy sleeping.  The father is sprawled in a flowered, over-stuffed chair.  He is enjoying a weekend nap in my way of thinking.  His glasses are on top of his head.  The boy is leaning on the arm of the chair, quiet but also wondering how one human being can make so much noise.  The blend of paper patterns is wonderful.

This is one book I will keep close to me.  My Daddy Rules the World: Poems about Dads poems and illustrations by Hope Anita Smith is also a title to gift whenever possible.  It will definitely be a choice during trick-or-treat at Halloween at my home.  As a read aloud it's a dream come true.  Make sure to have a copy on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To discover more about Hope Anita Smith and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  To view interior images visit the publisher's website.  This title is featured by Jama Rattigan at Jama's Alphabet Soup.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson showcases this title at Kirkus and on her blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"It's elementary my dear..."

When an event occurs with no initial logical explanation it can be considered a mystery.  Likewise any story in which this type of event drives the main plot is named a mystery.  As you read collecting the clues, it's like going on a scavenger hunt.  Following along with the characters is almost as exciting as being there with them.

Down through the history of mystery fiction there are classic and contemporary detective teams; Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Frank and Joe Hardy (The Hardy Boys), Nancy Drew, Bess Marvin and George Fayne (Nancy Drew Mystery Stories) Emily Crane and James Lee (The Book Scavenger), Detective Rick Zengo and Detective Corey O'Malley (Platypus Police Squad), and Detective Wilcox and Captain Griswold (Wilcox and Griswold Mystery).  For younger readers a new duo hits the scene in their first puzzler.  The Missing Mola Lisa (Case #1 Q & Ray series) (Graphic Universe, a trademark of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., August 1, 2017) presented by the collaborative wife and husband team of author Trisha Speed Shaskan and illustrator Stephen Shaskan.

Before the first of ten chapters begins we are introduced to an assortment of characters on a page titled

Who's Who.

Our terrific twosome, Quillan Lu Hedgeson aka Q and Ray Ratzberg followed by Mr. Shrew, media specialist, Ms. Boar, classroom teacher, Ms. Easel, art teacher, Jimmy, magic shop owner, The Great Don Realo, magician and Officer Rocco all play various and vital roles.  As readers will note Mr. Shew and the media center serve as the hub of the Super Sleuth happenings.

After an exchanged greeting between Mr. Shrew and Ray, we discover the new student from France is really Q attempting to fool Ray with a disguise.  It's her goal to become a master.  Ray wants to be a master of something else besides cheese-and-onion sandwiches.  Magic is his aim.

Their second grade classmates are going on a field trip today to see the famed Mola Lisa at the Elm Tree Art Museum but first the students are entertained by The Great Don Realo, a surprise visit by the magician.  In the afternoon as the children of Elm Tree Elementary stand before the Mola Lisa suddenly the lights go out, fire is sighted but before they can exit the lights are back on and the fire has disappeared.  The fire is not the only thing missing. The Mola Lisa is gone.

Sharp-eyed and on the job, Q and Ray quickly discover two clues.  Visits to three locations increase their knowledge of the culprit responsible for the crime but they lack real evidence.  Like the great detectives before them, they reexamine all the gathered clues, leading them to the truth. Q and Ray, masters of magic and disguise, deliver the final surprise.

Nearly the entire narrative is told through conversations between the characters.  Trisha Speed Shaskan weaves interesting facts about magic into the story which careful readers will eventually see are key to locating information about the theft.  She also cleverly uses Q's passion for disguise as part of the plot details.

The dialogue between the characters will be easily understood by the intended audience.  When Q and Ray are trying to solve the case, it's as if we are joining in the chat.  Humor appears when you least expect it.

Class:  ABCs!
Raise your paws!

Here is another passage during lunch between Ray and Q.

How about a magic trick?
Look at the quarter.
It's been in my family for years.
We've passed it from one rat to the next.
Ha! It's gone!

Don't worry.  I won't let history
slip through my paws.  It's
right here! Or---right ear!
Aces! How did
you do that?

When you first look at the front of the book case, it's hard not to think of Saturday morning cartoons.  The characters are cute and comical at the same time.  Illustrator Stephen Shaskan has tied all the elements in the image together to look like a display at a gallery.  And he includes a huge clue or is it a red herring?  To the left, on the back, is text relative to the title you might find on a jacket flap.  The opening and closing endpapers are a crisp, pristine white.  A design technique similar to the case is used for the title page with text and images like pictures hanging on a wall.

In this graphic novel the panels are varied in size with the frames having rounded corners.  Smaller panels are placed within larger panels.  Sometimes we will be given a different perspective to draw our focus to a specific point as when Ray is doing his magic trick. Stephen's signature geometric rays radiant from his characters in some of the scenes.

The placement of the speech balloons will assist early readers.  For emphasis and dramatic effect text is enlarged, made bold and placed in jagged speech balloons.  Readers can easily discern the elevated volume of the speaker's voice.  I think readers with any art knowledge will find the depiction of The Scream, Girl with a Pearl Earring and the Mola Lisa hilarious.  A nod is given to two specific artists in the clothing worn by Ms. Easel.

One of my favorite of many illustrations is when Q and Ray are talking over a twist in the case.  They are standing facing each other.  Q is wearing a yellow jacket and skirt with purple accessories and shoes.  Ray is wearing another combination of his usual checked shirt (light blue and white) with red pants and shoes with light blue socks.  Their expressions are animated, endearing and funny.

During an impromptu and very short questions and answer on social media several nights ago, Trisha had this to say about this first title in the proposed series.

Like our picture book Punk Skunks, Stephen and I created Q & Ray together from its conception.  While brainstorming which type of story we wanted to create, we decided on a mystery for a few reasons.  For years, I taught mystery-writing classes to elementary students; it was my most popular class.  From teaching it, I always wanted to write a mystery.  Like the students, Stephen and I loved mysteries as kids.  At first, Q & Ray was a chapter book, but two things happened.  One: Stephen and I read tons of graphic novels for kids to prep for a class we taught kids on the subject.  In the meantime, I worked as a literacy coach with elementary school students.  Some of the emerging readers wanted to read the Babymouse and Lunch Lady graphic novel series, but they didn't have the reading skills to read them, yet.  I though the format could provide a readable text, but also visual cues for young readers.  Stephen and I chose the names Q & Ray as a riff on Q & A, questions and answers, which are the basis of mysteries.  While writing the story, I drew upon my love of Sherlock Holmes.  While illustrating the story, Stephen drew upon his love of the aesthetics of Harvey Comics (Little Dot, Richie rich, Casper the Friendly Ghost),---for the use of thick black lines and flat colors.  Together, Stephen and I drew upon the power of friendship; how a team versus an individual can be best suited to tackle the odds of solving mysteries---and of course, creating books!

For readers eager to read graphic novels and solve mysteries while enjoying the companionship of two likeable characters hand them The Missing Mola Lisa (Case #1 Q & Ray series) written by Trisha Speed Shaskan with illustrations by Stephen Shaskan.  I think it might be fun to act out some of the chapters or scenes from the chapters like a reader's theater.  I know there will be a copy of this on my personal bookshelves and ready to hand out at Halloween.  You will want one on your professional shelves too.  On the final page under Fun Facts readers can learn about Leonardo da Vinci upon which Leonardo da Squity is based in this book.

To learn more about Trisha Speed Shaskan and Stephen Shaskan and their other work please visit their respective websites by following the links attached to their names.  To view interior portions of this title please stop by the publisher's website.  Both Trisha and Stephen wrote posts for Picture Book Month.  Trisha was featured at KidLit 411.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

This Is Not Your Imagination!

The first time I can recall using the word monster was after some person of questionable scruples told me about the possibility of one hiding under my bed.  I can't remember how long it took me to not be afraid to hang any portion of my body over the outline of the bed.  And there is no denying the fascination with cryptids such as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Bunyip, Chupacabra, the Jersey Devil or the Michigan Dogman to name only a few.

Most dictionaries define the word monster by using the word imaginary.  Monsters are simply not real.  Or are they?  In a companion title to the highly popular, Pink Is For Blobfish: Discovering the World's Perfectly Pink Animals (The World of Weird Animals series)     (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, February 2, 2016) zoologist and author Jess Keating presents What Makes A Monster?: Discovering the World's Scariest Creatures (The World of Weird Animals series) (Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, August 8, 2017).  David DeGrand returns with his quirky, humorous illustrations.  If you want to read a book, gasping at every page turn, this is a title you can't miss!

What makes a MONSTER?
Turn the page to find out,
if you dare...

Those three little words, if you dare, will apply throughout this title.  Seventeen of our planet's occupants on land, sea and air from the animal kingdom are revealed in all their strange, bizarre wonder.  You might think the cover creature has been shocked by its expression but the aye-aye uses those bony claws to tap on tree trunks looking for prey. When it finds something, it munches through the bark and gulp!  There are superstitions attached to the aye-aye; it is seen as a harbinger of death or even worse...causes death.  They, vampire bats, may not be Dracula but the way they get blood gives me the shivers.

You are not going to believe which fearless creature can be bitten by a venomous snake and live another day.  There is no escaping the tentacles of this group of animals which move as one.  They are usually thirty feet long but can be one hundred sixty-five feet long!  Holy heroes!  This frog is also known as the Wolverine frog. Guess why?

Facts about birds that kill the young of other birds after laying their eggs in that bird's nest, an ant brain feeding fungus, and a stinging insect that saves lives will astound you.  And trust me; you will never look at a prairie dog the same way again.  Who knew?  As if ants don't have enough problems already, another bug uses their corpses as clothing.

Sea creatures defending themselves with two sets of jaws and another who lives in the deep, deep depths sucking in its food like a vacuum are to be respected.  They are no ordinary dragons of legend and lore but Komodo dragons are deadly, eating anything they can.  There will be some readers who will be surprised by the seventeenth animal named.  I'm not one of them.  It's what makes this book a stunning accomplishment, asking us to really think about the use of the word monster and what it means to us.

Armed with knowledge of her subject and gifted for knowing exactly what readers need and want to know Jess Keating educates her readers like a master teacher.  For each of the seventeen animals she begins with an informative narrative paragraph.  This is followed by extensions relative to the animal; local superstitions, feeding habits, a detailed explanation of a unique trait, origin of a name or survival techniques.  On the right side of the right page (two pages are dedicated to each animal, beginning with a realistic photograph on the left), Jess gives us their name, species name, size, diet, habitat and predators and threats.

As if we are engaged in a one-on-one conversation she has readers riveted to the pages from the beginning to the end.  As you move from animal to animal, though, you find yourself speculating on their place and purpose in the grand scheme.  Above all else Jess Keating is inviting us to think.  Here is an example of one of the extended, second sections.

A Curious Claw
Claws are found in a wide range of species,
but clawed frogs are only found in Central
Africa.  In other animals, claws are made of
keratin, the same substance that creates
our own nails and hair.  But the claws of
horror frogs are unique---instead of
keratin, they are made of bone.

After you have read the words written by Jess Keating you are pleasantly surprised to find yourself laughing at how perfectly cartoonist David DeGrand seems to portray exactly what you are thinking.  For each of the seventeen animals he includes a comical image pertaining to a particular trait.  As the aye-aye taps on the outside of a tree trunk an insect quickly avoids death by leaping out a hole, ants are walking in a line upright with arms outstretched chanting All hail, Fungus! after their brains have been attacked by cordyceps fungus, a cute little prairie dog looks innocent as deadly, angry germs surround it and a barely alive Japanese giant hornet is leaving a smoking honeybee nest.  One of my favorite of several illustrations is of the tyrant leech king sitting in a chair and ottoman with a straw extending from its mouth, sucking on skin.

You must have multiple copies of What Makes A Monster?: Discovering the World's Scariest Creatures (The World of Weird Animals series) written by Jess Keating with illustrations by David DeGrand.  Readers will read these over and over again until they have the well-loved look.  Students will pass this book from reader to reader.  They will be quoting facts aloud.  At the close of the book Jess Keating asks us to ponder monster pairs.  She also has another page requesting us to seriously consider several questions about scary creatures, welcoming discussions. A Say What?! A Glossary of Useful Words closes the title.

To discover more about Jess Keating and David DeGrand and their other work please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Jess Keating's website is a treasure trove of resources for everyone but especially for educators.  She is continually sharing her zoological passion with readers bridging any gaps between us and the animal world.  Both the cover and the book trailer for this title were revealed at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read. By visiting the publisher's website you can view a portion of the book's interior.  I recently discovered an interview of Jess Keating at Celebrate Picture Books which you might enjoy.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the titles selected by other bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Heart To Heart

When a dog and their human connect, it's indescribably beautiful.  If you are one of those humans, each day you look at your dog thinking how fortunate you are.  Surely this is a miracle this wild thing chooses to be with me.

It's as if two separate souls become inseparable.  As a human, whether you realize it or not, you have become a member of a pack.  Your dog's loyalty is one of the most humbling experiences you will ever have.  Hello Goodbye Dog (Roaring Brook Press, July 25, 2017) written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Patrice Barton is the story of two hearts full of love, the one for the other.

"Hello, Moose!" said Zara.
There was nothing Moose loved more
than hello.

Hello means many good things, like a ride in the car.  Goodbye is not such a good thing.  Goodbye means Moose and Zara cannot be together.  Goodbye means Zara has to go to school...without Moose.

In Moose's mind, this is unacceptable.  At the first opportunity Moose turns the goodbye into a hello.  An opened door has Moose zooming toward Zara's school.  Guess who's peeking in the window in Zara's classroom?

Zara's classmates are thrilled to have Moose with them.  Mrs. Perkins knows dogs are not allowed in school but Zara assures her Moose enjoys a good real aloud.  And he does.  Of course Moose has to say goodbye again.

Goodbye was being tied up in the backyard.

To a dog, a rope is an invitation to a good chew.

Moose manages to thwart every goodbye attempt replacing it with his own special brand of hello.  He demonstrates his ability to remain calm when being read a book with each subsequent visit until one goodbye too many has Moose creating mayhem as he plays catch-me-if-you-can.  Now Moose is stuck in a goodbye from which he cannot escape but Zara has a big idea.  When an idea comes from love, there are many winners.

When Maria Gianferrari writes about animals, especially dogs, her admiration and yes, love, of them shines in every written word.  The blend of narrative and conversation flows naturally.  One technique employed by Maria which encourages audience participation is each time Moose needs to say goodbye she uses the same phrase,

Moose put on her brakes.

This is followed by the names of the people who are assisting her to leave.  One extra person is added after Moose continues to appear at school.  This circles back to Moose at the story's conclusion.  In one particular part, Maria also increases the action with a series of rhyming words which are a read aloud joy.  Here is a sample passage.

Hello was a pat on the head.
"Dogs aren't allowed in school," 
said Mrs. Perkins.
"Moose will be quiet," said Zara.
"She loves story time."

Moose lay at Zara's feet as Mrs.
Perkins read a story.

The shared love between Moose and Zara glows on the front of the dust jacket (I am working with an F & G.)  Dogs like to place their paws on their humans to stay linked.  Zara is well aware of this.  If the locked glances do not signal their mutual affection, the wagging tail on Moose is a clear signal.  The stack of books between them is a clue of this dog's love of listening to books being read aloud.  The staggering and stacking of the title text along with the three color choices mirrors the stack of books.

To the left, on the back, with the same canvas Zara and Moose are pictured alone.  Zara is reading the book previously on her lap to Moose. Her tail is wagging in sheer happiness.  The opening and closing endpapers are dotted with a zigzag trail of paw prints.  It's a given you will break into a smile looking at the title page.  Moose is standing on her hind legs, tongue hanging out of a grinning mouth.  She is leaning on a tall pile of books with others scattered around her.

Each illustration is rendered in Patrice Barton's signature soft, delicate style.  She opens the story with a two page picture, alternating image sizes to correspond and elevate the text.  Her attention to details is exquisite; a boy draws Moose as Mrs. Perkins reads the story, the chewed rope remains attached to Moose's collar, Ms. Chen is shown eating her lunch with the students, and the trail of food to lure Moose out of the cafeteria is wonderfully typical.

You are going to want to hug all these characters; their animated faces and movements are simply charming. And Moose will have you laughing out loud.  Patrice portrays dogginess with a knowing skill.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a two-page picture. It's when Moose first visits the school looking in the classroom window.  The children are seated in groups around round tables. The looks are their faces at the sight of Moose are full of delight. Moose with her paws on the window sill only has eyes for Zara and she is downright ecstatic. Zara is pointing and smiling.  Mrs. Perkins, holding a book, looks astonished.  Believe me, from personal experience, this moment is depicted with perfection.

As you read this story your heart fills with laughter and lightness. Hello Goodbye Dog written by Maria Gianferrari with illustrations by Patrice Barton gives readers an up-close look at the desire of a dog to be with her human always and of her human's loving response.  Children and adults alike will enjoy seeing themselves in this story.  You will most definitely want a copy on your professional and personal bookshelves.

By following the links attached to Maria Gianferrari's and Patrice Barton's names you can access their websites to learn more about them and their other work.  You can view several interior illustrations at the publisher's website.  Maria Gianferrari has been interviewed at several sites during the past two years, KidLit 411, PictureBookBuilders, and Picture Books Help Kids Soar to name a few.

Maria was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

I know you are a huge lover of dogs, Maria.  I think readers would like to know a little bit about you and your dog Becca.  Would you tell us how Becca came into your family?

Indeed I am, Margie!! It’s a bit of a magical story. Our friend was about to have a baby girl and my then four-year old daughter, Anya, and I were discussing names. The name “Rebecca” popped into my head. Needless to say, the baby was not named Rebecca, but the very next day I went on Petfinder.com and found our Rebecca—it was meant to be! Here’s the photo that made me fall in love with her.

She was dumped near a highway in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and a lovely couple who already had many pets took her in and brought her to a rescue organization. She was eventually transported to NH where we picked her up. Incidentally, my next fiction book, Operation Rescue Dog (coming from Little Bee in 2018) is about a girl named Alma who meets her rescue dog, Lulu.

As a little girl I was always stumbling, tripping and I did fall down a few stairs more than once.  I was given the nickname Moose because I was not known for my agility.  In this book the dog is named Moose.  Why did you give this dog that name?

I love all dogs, but I especially love big dogs, since they’re generally such gentle giants. I wanted the name to convey her size. One of Becca’s best neighborhood friends is a huge French Mastiff with a delicate name: Scarlett. I just love the irony!

Moose's connection to his girl, Zara, is understandable and completely endearing.  Is this bond between the two based on a personal real life experience or the experiences of someone you know?

Absolutely! It’s based on Anya and Becca. Anya’s an only child, and Becca is like her dog sister and playmate. As I mentioned above, we got Becca when Anya was 4, and Becca was approximately six months old. Now Anya’s 15 ½ and Becca’s 11 ½. This is my mouse pad and favorite photo of them. I’ve dubbed it “best friends.” My Penny & Jelly books are based on their bond too.

(If you want to read about the Penny & Jelly books I talk about them here.)


*Monday, July 24th:                                   Pragmatic Mom + THREE book giveaway!
*Two for Tuesday, July 25th:              Librarian’s Quest

*Wednesday, July 26th:                          Homemade City
*Thursday, July 27th:                                Kid Lit Frenzy
*Friday, July 28th:                                      Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
*Monday, July 31st:                                   Picture Books Help Kids Soar
*Tuesday, August 1st:                              Bildebok
*Wednesday, August 2nd:                      The Loud Library Lady
*Thursday, August 3rd:                           DEBtastic Reads!
*Friday, August 4th:                                  Mamabelly’s Lunches with Love
*Monday, August 7th:                               Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

EXTRA: August 25th:                                Kidlit411—Interview with Patrice Barton 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Views Of Hues

To receive a new coloring book as a gift as a child is marvelous.  If it comes with a new box of crayons or colored pencils it is the best of the best.  The possibilities the coloring book and box of crayons offer the recipient are endless.

The trend in adult coloring books beginning several years ago can be attributed to many things but two are the inner child in all of us wants to play and they remind us of childhood.  A sense of calm is supplied by coloring, like a form of mediation for those seeking calm in the face of a variety of situations.  I Don't Draw, I COLOR! (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, March 21, 2017) written by Adam Lehrhaupt with illustrations by Felicita Sala is for everyone who longs for the freedom to express their creativity however they choose.

Some people are really good at drawing.

Other people are not really good at drawing.  Our narrator tends to make puppies, cars and people using a collection of lines and curves vaguely resembling those subjects.  He realizes his drawing techniques are minimal but he makes up for it by coloring.

Starting with the primary shades he swirls them on his paper.  He varies the shapes and sizes of the lines in combination with the hues to convey his feelings.  Happy is yellow and orange fireworks.  Angry is dark red scribbles, over and over and over until it's solid.

He is ready with a reply when asked if he wants to draw.  He politely responds with

"...I don't draw.
I color."

In fact he knows anything can be colored whether it's concrete or abstract. 

Some students would be challenged by a class assignment but not this guy.  When he is asked to make a self-portrait, he has the perfect answer.  Not only is his response perceptive but he, more than any one else, can depict himself with confidence and competence.

With just the right amount of humor and insight Adam Lehrhaupt writes simple but profound sentences spinning a narrative in which many readers will identify with the character.  His point of view rings true.  With each page turn readers are being given permission to be themselves rather than act upon the expectations of others.  This is an empowering message.  Here is one of my favorite examples:

Or something full of

The swirl of shades bursting from the yellow crayon on the front of the dust jacket as our young narrator colors loops over his head, across the spine and to the edge of the back, on the left.  Yellow blends into variations of green, then hues of blue and finally to purples and spots of pink and red.  The white title text pops superbly.  

On the book case, still on a background of crisp white, the sizes of lines and shapes convey several emotional moods.  On the opening endpapers is a sunny yellow.  Complementary purple is on the closing endpapers.  The same purple is used for the title text on the title page except for the word color.  Each letter is a different shade; red, blue, purple, yellow and orange.

Rendered in watercolors, drawing and colored pencils, and crayons by Felicita Sala the images vary in size to emphasize pacing.  Throughout the narrative until the conclusion the boy is portrayed in shades of black and gray, as are the other children.  This allows for the use of color, usually on a white canvas, to intensify the connection readers have with the story.  The children and adult hand are descriptively depicted.

One of several favorite pictures is for the words 

Or something full of

Here readers can see the guy extending his emotional representations.  Large areas of green in assorted shades fan upward from the bottom of the page.  On the upper edges yellow appears.  Lines looking like stems shoot toward the top with small lines and dots on all the edges.  

In a word I Don't Draw, I COLOR! written by Adam Lehrhaupt with illustrations by Felicita Sala is inspirational.  This story is an invitation.  This story gives permission.  It makes you want to race to the store to get a new box of crayons. Educators will want to use it to begin the school year or a new unit.  Make sure you have a copy on your professional bookshelves and one for home too.  I believe it would pair wonderfully with SWATCH: The Girl Who Loved Color by Julie Denos. 

To discover more about Adam Lehrhaupt and Felicita Sala and their other work please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Felicita Sala has several interior images on her website and at her blog.  To view interior images you can also visit the publisher's website.  Adam Lehrhaupt has created a Pinterest board for this book.

Friday, July 21, 2017

There's No Time Like...

More than four hundred fifty years ago, a phrase was coined indicating you should do something immediately rather than wait for a more opportune time.  It was understood there was no purpose in planning and fretting about possibilities; it was believed the present was the optimum moment.  Today this definition still holds true.

Another perspective for there's no time like the present would be to ask ourselves to pause and rest our minds.  Are we constantly mulling over an incident from the past?  Are we thinking about something which may or may not happen in hours, days or weeks in the future?  What wonder would we enjoy if we focused on the present alone?  Now (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, July 11, 2017) written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis (Wait, Best Frints in the Whole Universethrough the mind and actions of a child depicts finding joy in the moment.

This is my favorite breeze.

A single leaf, this leaf, held like a fan is cherished by the child, the narrator.  She also relishes one particular hole in the ground.  It's the one she is sitting in.  It's the one she is digging.

As she stands in mud, holds a worm and gazes at clouds, she declares each one her favorite.  It's not because of a particular quality each one exhibits but because she is experiencing that puddle of mud, that wiggling worm and that gauzy cloud now.  This little girl is teaching us that nothing is better than reveling in this second.

No matter the weather or the loss, she looks for the bliss.  She uses her senses, encountering her world through sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing.  Her favorite song is not at the top of the charts, it's the one she happens to be singing now.

She prods the empty space in her mouth, missing a tooth.  Her cat is the not so thrilled recipient of a goodnight embrace.  But as this day of many days comes to a close she declares her final favorite.  It's a declaration of why Now is the very best now of all nows.

The simplicity of the statements written by Antoinette Portis allows readers to be lifted up and into the story.  Through the voice of the child we come to understand how delight can be found in everyday things; most of them free for all.  The grouping of the sentences establishes a rhythm; the naming of two favorites followed by a third because it is engaging the little girl at the present time.  Here is a sample group of three phrases.

This is my favorite rain.
That was my favorite boat.
This is my favorite tree because it's the one where I am swinging.

When you open the matching dust jacket and book case the attraction of the front of each is increased.  Now we can see the entire face of the girl continuing over the spine and to the left on the back.  It's not entirely symmetrical which is an excellent design choice.  There is more white space on the left.  On the left the girl's ear is covered with her hair.  The center of the leaf is tilted to the right.

The hue from the title text and the leaf covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Pale green clouds dot the title, verso and dedication pages.  A large sun holds the dedication name.

The illustrations, rendered using sumi ink, brush, and bamboo stick with color added digitally by Antoinette Portis, extend the openness of her text filling the pages with utter delight.  A limited color palette, leaning toward earth tones and perfect for the heavier matte-finished paper, adds a sense of realism.  We can easily imagine ourselves finding the same contentment as the little girl.

One of my favorite of many illustrations is the first one we see.  Spanning two pages, it portrays the girl standing on a grassy hill on the right.  Her eyes are closed.  Her hair is blowing behind her.  Her arms are lifted on either side of her toward the sky.  Large brush strokes of teal stretch from left to right blending into the girl's face, shirt and striped skirt.  She is feeling the breath of the breeze.

Now written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis is about standing still in the rush around us.  It's asking us to observe and extend gratitude for each given opportunity...now.  This perspective grants readers a feeling of peace.  It would be interesting to see how readers would extend this title relative to their surroundings at the moment.  I can't imagine a professional or personal bookshelf without this title.

To learn more about Antoinette Portis and her other work please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  You can view interior images at the publisher's website.  Antoinette Portis maintains an Instagram account.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson shares her review and interior images at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.  There are several interviews and conversations with Antoinette Portis from two years ago at Number Five Bus Presents..., The Horn Book, Publishers Weekly and Kid Lit Frenzy.  While the title discussed the most in these is Wait, you can still learn about Antoinette Portis and her process.

Never Enough

Are there ever enough minutes in a day?  How often have you looked at a clock wondering how the hours vanished?  Morning blends into noon; evening seems to approach in a blink of an eye.

If you really want to make very moment meaningful shadow a dog.  They are always ready to play and they do so with extreme exuberance. Given the opportunity to be outside, they take it, savoring every smell, taste, sound and movement.  Nothing escapes their attention.  Every human they see is initially treated equally.  Every day is a new day; they are forgiving.  Stay A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List (Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, July 18, 2017) is the newest offering by collaborative sisters, Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise.  It honors the unbreakable bond between a dog and their human.  It honors the beauty of the canine condition.

When Astrid came home from the hospital, Eli was there waiting.  He was Astrid's first friend.

Being Astrid's friend lead to other enjoyable jobs for Eli, bodyguard, pillow and his large size offered her a good place to hide.  They shared everything; a home, a place to eat and a place to sleep.  This human and this dog were more alike than different except for one thing.

Eli and Astrid were growing and aging differently.  Astrid was getting taller than Eli.  Eli was getting older faster than Astrid.  Even at the early age of six Astrid noticed how quickly Eli was moving from puppy to older adult.

After one particularly pleasant day at the playground Astrid decided to make a list of everything she and Eli needed to do before he got too old; a bucket list on the side of their bucket now empty of popcorn.  No matter how tricky the activity was Astrid was going to make it happen; like rigging a platform so Eli could ride on the back of her bike.

Astrid discovered the joy of reading aloud to Eli and giving him a bubble bath.  Her last thing on the bucket list was a delectable delight to show her gratefulness for his loyalty.  Soon there were no more strolls to their favorite places.  During cuddle time Astrid asked if there was anything else to add to the list.  Eli's reply was exactly why dogs are surely heaven sent.

One of the first words a new puppy learns is stay.  It ensures first and foremost his or her safety in a human world.  What author Kate Klise has shown us is stay is an integral part of a canine's character.  Their loyalty to their "pack" is without question.  Not only do our dogs (Eli) stay but they do so out of a love more pure than we can fully understand.

Throughout this story we are shown in the things Astrid and Eli do together how their friendship is formed.  We are privy to the growth of a very special kind of affection.  By including Eli's thoughts in response to Astrid's comments we see inside both of their hearts.  There is also a gentle kind of humor in Eli's replies; their dogginess is genuine.  Here is a sample passage.

"Eli," Astrid said, "have you ever been down a slide?  You really should before you get too old."
So with Astrid's help, Eli slid down the sun-warmed slide.

That was fun, Eli thought.  Who knew?  

For those of us who have been honored with the love of a dog, the picture on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case is a dream comes true.  Who wouldn't want to be able to share a dinner with their canine companion at a fancy restaurant?  The glow of the candle light on the two happy faces says a lot about this story.  The word Stay is varnished.

To the left, on the back, Eli is curled in a living room chair leaning over the arm.  Astrid is seated next to the chair reading aloud dog books.  (I can't begin to tell you the number of times, one of my dogs has been on the furniture with me seated on the floor.  This scene is classic.)  A mint green covers the opening and closing endpapers.

Rendered in acrylic paint on bristol board the illustrations are filled with warmth.  Many of them are placed on a canvas of pale golden yellow; others the wallpaper in the home, a scene in the park, or the backyard at night.  M. Sarah Klise brings us into this relationship almost as if we are experiencing it ourselves.  There is no doubt; Eli is a member of this family.

The image sizes vary in keeping with the pace of the story; delicate details enhancing the mood and emotion in each one.  Careful readers will notice the content of the pictures on the living room wall, the marquee at the movie theater and the growth of the tree next to the driveway of Astrid's and Eli's home.  All of the illustrations build toward the final page guaranteeing a sigh of satisfaction from all readers.

One of my many favorite pictures spans two pages.  Astrid and Eli are at the playground.  On the left a group of children are climbing on a jungle gym.  A woman with a dog on a leash who is resting watches them.  In the background another woman is walking her dog.  To the right Astrid and Eli are swooping down the slide.  Eli is in front of Astrid, her arms around his body.  His four legs are spread in total contentment.  Beneath the slide is the empty popcorn bucket.

Stay A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List written by Kate Klise with illustrations by M. Sarah Klise will make a mark on every reader's heart.  It speaks of growing old and how to celebrate the time given to us.  No one knows better than a dog how to stay.  No one wants them to be here longer than their human friends.  You need to have a copy of this title on your professional and personal bookshelves.  It would pair perfectly with Elisha Cooper's Homer.

By following the links attached to Kate Klise's and M. Sarah Klise's names you can learn more about them and their work at their websites.  At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrations.  At Publishers Weekly the sisters were interviewed five years ago about their work.  Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise were recently part of a Q & A at The Horn Book about this book.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Flash Of Red

In the past few years, more red fox crossed my path than all the previous years combined.  It would be nice to believe their population is increasing or perhaps my perception is more finely honed.  They seem to be on the move more during the day rather than strictly during the evening or night.

They are frequently seen vanishing into the undergrowth along a country road.  One in particular had a route which extended through my home property, even venturing close to me and my dog one night by the front door.  All thoughts of them being shy are gone.  With their repeated sightings, a curiosity is growing.  The Secret Life of the Red Fox (Boyd Mills Press, an imprint of Highlights, March 7, 2017) written by Laurence Pringle with illustrations by Kate Garchinsky is an outstanding exploration of the days in the life of a red fox through several seasons.

Vixen awakes from a nap.
She is surrounded by snow but feels cozy.

To hold in her body heat she is comfortable in a nook with her tail curled around her.  As she steps outside she lifts her nose into the air using her super sense of smell to look for a meal.  Moving through the snow her back feet are placed in the exact point her front feet land; one trail of tracks is visible.  Finally her extraordinary hearing tells her a meadow mouse is eating beneath a foot of snow.  She makes her jump and dive move, rewarded with a meal.

When she captures extra food, she puts it in a cache. Near daybreak she meets her mate greeting him by sniffing and touching.  At this point they don't necessarily spend all their time together.  Their territory is marked and messages are sent with urine.

Vixen's ability to elude dogs on her scent is an admirable feat.  Several days later she begins to scout out abandoned dens.  When she finds one with the options she desires, she digs to enlarge the area.

As winter blends into spring Vixen and her mate are together more often.  Eventually she does not leave the den.  He hunts and brings her food.  One day the red fox ventures out of the den.  Following her are four kits. Until the autumn when they strike out to create their own territories, both parents participate in the care of their babies.  Perhaps you will see a flash of red as one passes near you when you least expect it.  Enjoy the gift.

There is an undercurrent of respect for his subject in the narrative nonfiction penned by Laurence Pringle.  Woven into the story of this vixen's life is information about the physical characteristics and lifestyle of the red fox.  With each description you find your admiration for these beautiful animals growing in proportion to the increase in your knowledge.  It's as if you are shadowing her.  Here is a sample passage.

In the snow, her back feet usually land right in the marks made by her front feet, so she leaves a single line of footprints in the snow.  Fresh snowflakes dot her russet winter coat, and Vixen's white-tipped tail floats behind her like a banner.

Foxes are omnivores, which means they eat both animal and plant food.  But in winter Vixen finds no berries or other plant foods to eat.  Now she is mostly a predator, hunting animals.  She explores a thicket where rabbits often hide, but finds no prey.  She grows more and more hungry.

Opening the matching dust jacket and book case, you find yourself holding still barely able to breathe.  It's as if you are standing in the snow at the edge of a field watching Vixen move.  The illustration on the front moves over the spine to the left, covering the back with the light-dappled snowscape.  The blends of soft pastel colors depict the glory of the early morning sun.  Notice the title text for Red Fox.  It's tipped in white and textured to represent their tails.

The opening and closing endpapers are snow.  On the first is a line of red fox prints.  On the second another line stretches again from the lower left side to the upper right.  This time a fox is descending over a small hill with weeds framing it on the left and right.  Beneath the title text a red fox sits, leg lifted to scratch under its chin.  (Both of these snow scenes continue to first the title page and begin again at the close of the book after the dedication and publication information.)

Rendered in pastels and aqua crayons on sanded paper by Kate Garchinsky each illustration spans two pages.  They are as gorgeous as photographic images but far richer in their luminosity and texture.  Each one is worthy of framing, a study in intricate detail.

One of my many favorite pictures is of Vixen when she first steps out of her winter shelter.  It's a close-up of her upper body and head.  She is turned looking at a bird on a branch on the left as snow falls.  Her ears are alert.  Her breath clouds the air.  Her whiskers and eyebrow hairs are delicately displayed.  It's breathtaking.

The Secret Life of the Red Fox written by Laurence Pringle with illustrations by Kate Garchinsky is a stunning representation of this wondrous creature.  Each time you turn a page you will learn something new.  Each time you turn a page you will gasp at the loveliness of the pictures.  You will want to place this title on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Laurence Pringle and Kate Garchinsky and their other work please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Kate Garchinsky has an extensive Pinterest board studying the red fox.

Please visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to enjoy the other titles selected this week by participants in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Passion For Primates

When a subject reaches out and grabs us, we have a deep need to know...everything.  We want to immerse ourselves in information.  For some people this desire lasts a lifetime defining everything they do.  For others it can last days, weeks or months, until the next intriguing topic occupies their every waking moment.

This is one of the absolute joys of working with children as an educator.  Their thirst for knowledge about what they enjoy has no end.  Priscilla Gorilla (A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books for Younger Readers, March 7, 2017) written by Barbara Bottner with illustrations by Michael Emberley follows the daily adventures of a gal who loves gorillas.

When Priscilla turned six,
her dad gave her a book called
They read it a million skillion times! 

From that day forward nothing was done without focusing on gorillas.  No matter the type of special day at school, she managed to showcase gorillas.

On Events Day
she performed her own 
original gorilla dance.

As a final act at the end of each day, wearing her gorilla pajamas, she wrote in her special journal dedicated to gorillas, the GORILLA GAZETTE.

Priscilla's fascination with gorillas stemmed from her belief in them always getting their own way.  She, unlike them, did tend to spend time in the Thinking Corner in Mr. Todd's class.  He did not understand why Priscilla would be teaching Lily the gorilla dance during nap time.

On class photo day all the students came dressed in their favorite animal costumes, prepared to give a report. The problem for Priscilla was she did not want to remove her gorilla pajamas for the photograph.  (She kept on talking about gorillas even when her time was up.)  Priscilla was not in the picture but she occupied the Thinking Corner...again.)

To Mr. Todd's chagrin Lily showed up wearing her lion pajamas the next day.  Two people ended up in the Thinking Corner.  The next day the Thinking Corner was surprisingly filled to capacity.

At home that evening Priscilla, always truthful about her school day, prompted comments from her father about information in her ALL ABOUT GORILLAS book.  She pondered his points and looked over her considerable treasury of gorilla portraits.  At school the next day two major viewpoints shifted prior to and during a school outing.  Step lively, Mr. Todd!

By the second sentence of this story readers are well aware of Barbara Bottner's adept ability to depict the true heart of her characters, especially the younger gals and guys.  She understands how children can become addicted to learning about one or many things.  Another enjoyable aspect of this story is the portrayal of the adults.  Her parents are supportive but offer advice when necessary.  This advice allows Priscilla to make her own decisions.  This is true, too, of her teacher Mr. Todd; he expands on the potential of a teachable moment.  The blend of narrative and dialogue is perfection.  Here is a sample passage.

Lily's lion roared at Priscilla's gorilla.
Lily was invited to join Priscilla in the Thinking Corner.
You are my VERY best friend.
Priscilla whispered.
Sam said:
"You're both troublemakers!"
"I was just being a gorilla.  
Nobody tells a gorilla
what to wear."
Priscilla told Sam.
"Gorillas don't wear anything," said Sam.

Rendered in pencil and watercolor the illustrations by Michael Emberley are brimming with exuberance.  The tilted display of Priscilla, wearing her gorilla pajamas, on the front of the dust jacket, is a hint of the liveliness found throughout the title.  The shades of primary colors invite reader participation.  To the left, on the back, Priscilla is striking an upstanding gorilla pose.  Behind her a huge gorilla mimics her stance.  This is shown on a canvas of white.

On the book case of white, the image from the back of the jacket is enlarged for the front.  On the left side, the back, Priscilla is swinging in the corner upside down.  Two of her classmates are standing on the ISBN looking upward.  The opening and closing endpapers are covered in a bright yellow (just like Priscilla's personality.)  Beneath the text on the title page, Priscilla is squatting on all fours on top of the kitchen counter.

White space is used superbly on every single page.  Michael Emberley shifts his illustration sizes in keeping with the pace of the narrative.  He begins with a marvelous two page picture of Priscilla and her father sitting together in an overstuffed armchair reading her book, ALL ABOUT GORILLAS.  He combines smaller images on one page and places a colorful background behind a special grouping of multiple pictures.  He breaks an understood frame with elements as when Priscilla is drawing gorilla pictures and they tumble from her workspace in the kitchen.

What readers will appreciate the most is the humor.  It is present in all the pictures in the details, facial expressions and body positions. (Notice the cat at home, the children's costumes, and how Priscilla draws.)  The looks on Mr. Todd's face will have children and adults alike roaring with laughter.  Believe me when I say you expect any illustration at any moment to come alive.

One of my favorite of many illustrations is when Priscilla is leaving her home on class photo day.  Out the open doorway and down the porch steps, the faint outline of a parked school bus is present.  Leaning against the door frame, her mother leans in to kiss Priscilla goodbye.  Priscilla is hanging from a ring over the door, wearing her gorilla pajamas and carrying her backpack.  To the right of the doorway are storage cubes, many filled with books.

Regardless of the time between readings of this book or the number of times you read it, I guarantee you will always laugh out loud.  Priscilla Gorilla written by Barbara Bottner with illustrations by Michael Emberley is a read aloud gem.  You might want to have animal hats ready for your listeners to wear.  It would be fun to have an animal report day as Mr. Todd does.  Make sure to have a copy of this title on your professional and personal bookshelves.

To learn more about Barbara Bottner and Michael Emberley and their other work, take a few moments to visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  If you wish to view interior images, stop by the publisher's website.  Michael Emberley is the featured illustrator at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast on July 27, 2015. He talks extensively about the process for this particular book at Kathy Temean's Writing and Illustrating.

Outside, Inside, Upside And Downside

As soon as you leave the sanctuary of your home as a child (as an adult), you learn to make connections with other people.  Seeking those who enjoy the same activities, cherish the same values, and help you to be your best self but love you for exactly who you are, they are a rarity.  When you and another share a bond of mutual affection based upon unbreakable trust you are the best of friends.

As you grow up from a young age to adulthood, you begin to realize best friends may come and go, making for painful experiences.  Real Friends (First Second, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, May 2, 2017) written by Shannon Hale with artwork by LeUyen Pham and color by Jane Poole is a true recollection of finding positive people with whom to share your days.  It's full, like life, with heartbreak, healing and hope.

When I was little I didn't worry about friends.  

As Shannon navigates from kindergarten through fifth grade we are given windows into her school and home worlds.  Five sections labeled with names, Adrienne, Jen, Jenny, Zara and Veronica and Wendy, allow us to understand how these girls shaped her definition of friendship.  Some weaken the very nature of the meaning, others strengthen it.  Some are learning the importance of real friends.

As the middle child of five Shannon already feels a little left out at home.  Meeting Adrienne in kindergarten is a dream comes true for her.  They are inseparable until second grade, enjoying games of make-believe.  Then Adrienne moves.  All Shannon wishes for is the return of her best friend.  Wishes sometimes come true.

By third grade another student is rising in the popularity game, Jen.  All the girls want to be in The Group with Jen as leader.  Adrienne already knows Jen so she is automatically invited to be a member.  It is not so easy for Shannon.  From one minute to the next she never knows if she is in or out of the group.  A high point of the summer before fourth grade is spending time with Jen at her cabin.

Fourth grade brings more changes for Shannon...glasses.  One member of the group, Jenny, increases her bullying of Shannon.  She is so desperate to have Jen all to herself; she begins to spread lies about her.  Her cruelty heightens Shannon's anxiety; there are more stomach aches and counting.  At home the abuse from her older sister is worse.  Often Shannon hides in the bushes at school and at home to avoid the wrath of Jenny or her sister Wendy.

Only two of the group, Amy and Nicole, are in Shannon's class in fifth grade; a blend of fifth and sixth grade students.  In a moment of bravery after a particularly horrible moment with Jenny in The Group, Shannon leaves them for good.  Freedom does have costs but it opens new doors.  The generous spirit of two sixth grade students who admire the creativity and sense of humor exhibited by Shannon changes many things for her.  A shift at home broadens the hope now surging in her heart.

After repeated readings of nearly the entire book it's abundantly clear Shannon Hale is a writer of great courage and integrity.  Some of the scenes are painfully true but she tells this story in exquisite detail to let her readers know they are not alone with their experiences.  The line connecting us to friends is a fine line; easy to snap unless it's stood the test of time.  Nothing can break the line between real friends.

The dialogue is true-to-life to the point you feel as though you are watching a film.  The strength Shannon finds in her religion is noteworthy.  She shares her prayers.  In one particular moving scene, a low point for Shannon, in a day dream she feels as though no one would ever miss her if she vanished.  Jesus says He likes her.  Another important aspect is Shannon's imagination; her ability to fashion games and stories.  Pages are devoted to her tales of daring and heroes.  Here is a sample of dialogue.

Who was that?
The Group.
They were your friends?
But now they're not.
They're a bunch of turdmongers, aren't they?
Yeah...clearly a bunch of turdmongers, all of them.
You know, I never realized before, but they are kinda turdmongery.
Do you want to hang out with us today?
On the outside, I was like...
But on the inside
(blasting rainbows, stars and hearts)

When you first look at the front of the book case there is something about the look in young Shannon Hale's eyes and in her body stance, they let you know she is the kind of person you want to have as a friend.  Throughout the entire book the portrayal of Shannon, her family and all the students in her school years "click" in a universal manner with readers.  We can see ourselves and others, regardless of our current age, in these people.

All the people in each of the scenes are fully animated.  The panels alternate in size to supply pacing in keeping with the text.  When Shannon is creating a game or a story the panels vanish to expand our view along with her perspective.  We become emotionally linked as events unfold.

LeUyen Pham has done marvelous work in depicting the years between 1979 and 1984 with authentic clothing, hair styles, exterior and interior designs in architecture.   There are wall phones with cords attached to the hand sets.  The plaid fabric on the living sofa and its color are a flashback to that era.

One of my many favorite illustrations is during the summer before fourth grade.  With their backs to us Shannon and Jen are running through the woods from the lake shore at Jen's family cottage.  They are deep into a game as high school private detectives following clues to a kidnapped girl.  There is pure bliss in their moving arms and legs.  It's one of those moments as a child you never forget.

In this collaboration Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham have brought to readers a wonderfully, realistic depiction.  Real Friends will be read over and over and over.  Copies will have the well-loved look in short order.  I can imagine real friends reading portions out loud to each other.  Perhaps they will act out scenes.  Professional collections must have multiple copies.  I extend my deepest appreciation to Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham for this title.

To learn more about Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham and their other work please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages.  There is a website dedicated to this title.  Shannon Hale is a guest at BookRiot talking about this title.  Shannon Hale is in a video interview with Rocco Staino for KidLit TV.  In The Book Report by Jarrett J. Krosocska he talks about this title and its importance.  Enjoy the book trailer.