Sunday, March 9, 2014
Going Places, written by Peter H Reynolds and Paul A Reynolds and illustrated by Peter H Reynolds. Atheneum, Simon & Schuster. 2014. $$17.99 ages 4 and up
Rafael checked back in
to see how Maya was doing.
"Wow, what is that?" he asked.
"You like it?"
Rafael responded slowly."
Oh, I am so glad that the Reynolds brothers here write about imagination and artistic spirit. Rafael and Maya could not be more different when it comes to the task at hand:
"Rafael had been waiting
all year long for the
Going Places contest,
a chance to build a go-cart,
race it...and win."
He's the first to get his kit, and he follows the directions precisely. He's content doing exactly what the blueprint says. Once complete, according to the included instructions, Rafael's go-cart is picture perfect. With no further work to do, he has time to wonder how Maya is getting along with her kit. She lives next door; he is off to check it out.
Rafael finds Maya sitting on her unopened kit, sketching a lovely blue bird that has caught her eye. She seems mesmerized by the bird, and totally uninterested in the go-cart. Rafael goes back home. When he returns the following morning, there is some surprise in store for him. Maya's 'go-cart' looks nothing like his, or what was described in the instructions. When he points that out, Maya is unperturbed!
Maya wonders where it said it had to be a go-cart. It's a tough question to answer. It sets Rafael in a different direction:
"I get it. Hey, Maya,
I really want to
win this race.
never said we
couldn't team up
Their course is set. The results are enlightening. In a book about being creative and following your own path, readers will get a real sense of the benefits and confidence that comes from being a non-conformist. There are so many possibilities, aren't there?
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Mama Built a Little Nest, written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Beach Lane, Simon & Schuster. 2014. $19.99 ages 5 and up
My daddy helped out too.
They placed my egg upon his feet.
That's where I hatched and grew.
The emperor penguin uses a living
nest: the father penguin. The father uses his beak
to roll the mother's egg upon his feet quickly, so it doesn't freeze, and carefully, so it doesn't break."
What a welcome and informative book of nonfiction this is! The fact that Steve Jenkins has created the graceful and detailed artwork is icing on the cake.
Catchy rhymes and gentle rhythms assure interest for the young readers who will share this book. Each stanza introduces a new bird and its nest-building prowess. The predictability of the opening line will soon have little ones helping with the reading. The captioned text that sits alongside Steve Jenkins' carefully constructed collages add interest for parents who are doing the reading, and for older listeners, too. I found it all quite fascinating and informative:
"Mama built a little nest.
Well, actually, she didn't.
She found one that another made,
and then she laid me in it.
Not all birds build nests. The cowbird, whydah, and cuckoo find a nest
built by another bird species. They lay their eggs in it and fly off, leaving
their eggs in the care of the bird who built the nest."
Jennifer Ward knows birds and happily shares that knowledge with her audience. She does it in a most appealing and informative way. She never overwhelms with text, and manages to create a book that will be appreciated as nonfiction while feeling a bit like a story meant to be told. There was much here I did not know, and I found myself in awe of these tiny creatures whose innate ability to create the perfect home for their young is so evident.
As you know, if you have read my blog posts before, I am a huge fan of Steve Jenkins' art! He works brilliantly creating collage images that are full of minute details and that have huge appeal for all readers. The colors he has chosen for this book are perfect. Vibrancy in color is evident on some pages, while the mothers who do most of the building are muted as happens in nature.
We are reminded at the conclusion of the text that we, too, have a nest....it's cozy and comfortable, and allows for much needed rest at the end of long days. We call it a 'bed'.
The fourteen nests are as varied as their builders, and are sure to inspire readers to find out more about them. To that end, the author adds a note following the book's poetic text, and a list for further learning.
"They produce nests that float, defy gravity, expand, are camouflaged, and that heat or cool. Indeed, these avian architects create the most varied type of home of any wild species, allowing them to live in a diversity of habitats."
Friday, March 7, 2014
What's YOUR Favorite Animal? Eric Carle and Friends. Henry Holt, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2014. $19.99 ages 4 and up
You may find her (or him)
a little ugly - too squishy.
But all her life she works
at her craft, adding to it
day by day until, when she
dies, she leaves us something
of great beauty.
If you read a book about animals to young children, they are likely to ask if you have a favorite one. It is an oft-heard question. In this book, 14 familiar and much-loved illustrators answer that same question for us. They are listed alphabetically on the front cover; their answers are randomly placed within the pages of this most entertaining and beautiful book.
It begins with Eric Carle, as it should. All royalties from the book will be donated to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Check it out at carlemuseum.org if you want to know more about this truly amazing facility. Mr. Carle's favorite animal is a cat. He favored cats at a very early age, despite an apparent allergy. This particular cat is named Fiffi, and she lived with the artist in New York. His story is charming and obviously, memorable.
With every page turn, a double page spread allows a look at the artist's rendering of their own favorite animal. They vary in form, as do the accompanying notes. They include sketches, panelled stories, even carefully drawn realistic drawings of the chosen animal. They might of be a memory, an imagined creature, a beloved pet, or just plain fun. Their approach to the images drawn allows us a bit of a look at each artist's personality.
Here is a list of the contributors: Eric Carle, Nick Bruel, Lucy Cousins, Susan Jeffers, Steven Kellogg, Jon Klassen, Tom Lichtenheld, Peter McCarty, Chris Raschka, Peter Sís, Lane Smith, Erin Stead, Rosemary Wells, Mo Willems. Brilliant!
I know you will be as impressed as I am with this fine new collection.
Bear and Bee Too Busy, written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier. Disney Hyperion Books, Hachette. 2014. $16.50 ages 3 and up
to do?" says Bear.
"Bee!" says Bear.
"Come and climb the tree
You will love it!"
"No, thank you, Bear,"
says Bee. "I'm too busy to
climb the tree."
They are back! In this second story of unexpected friendship, Bear and Bee discover that everything is better when shared with a friend. Bear is bent on fun, and does everything he can to entice Bee from her morning's work to have fun with him.
With each new suggestion, Bee replies that she's too busy. Bear heads off to find something else to do; along the way, he discovers that 'fun' is more fun with friends to share it. He has great ideas. He suggests rolling down the hill, climbing a tree, even splashing in the pond. Bee just can't allow herself to abandon the work that needs doing. (Have you ever sounded like that when your little one issued such an invitation?)
Bear is quick to share his feelings with his best friend:
"Oh Bee….Having fun is not as fun without you.”
So true, isn't it?
When Bee's work is done, and she wants to share a look at the moon with her friend, Bear is busy. Bee finds a way to entice him from his slumber, in a perfect ending.
The illustrations bring these familiar characters back to us for a welcome repeat visit. The cheerful colors, the warm expressions, and the homey setting combine with repetitive text sure to encourage early readers to pick it up and try it for themselves. All the while, they will building confidence, finding pleasure in the story and wanting to read it to someone else! Huzzah!
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Duck, Duck, Moose! Written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and illustrated by Noah Z Jones. Disney Hyperion, Hachette. 2014. $17.99 ages 3 and up
I want to make it my mission to get little ones reading again....AND LOVING IT! We are pushing too many young and vulnerable children into reading levelled books that have no real meaning. If kids don't see story in the books they are reading, they will learn to decode! They may know how to read; but, they don't want to read a book that has no innate appeal. How do you become a lifelong reader if you don't read anything that speaks to your heart, your head, or your funny bone?
There are hundreds of books written by brilliant and talented artists out there! We need to get those books to our little ones, and ensure that they grow to be readers who long to read because they are reading books they love and want to share.
That little bit of a rant brings me to this book....two words, that's it! Kids will want to read it again and again, and then again. It is full of the kind of humor that little ones get; it tells the story of three friends and it speaks to us of real friendship. We meet the three on the cover and then once more, on the title page. As we move to the dedication page, we begin to learn something about them. The ducks, in nightcaps, are quietly sleeping on tidy beds marked with a D. Moose, on the other hand, is sprawled across his much-too-small bed, feet hanging over the end, on his tummy, mouth wide open and clothes strewn around him. His blanket barely covers his back!
The kitchen table shows signs of his appearance at breakfast. The coffee is spilled on the tablecloth and the floor, his chair is upended, and he is out the door with a cheery wave. The ducks sit quietly reading the morning news, coffee cups at hand and their food carefully consumed.
As the ducks set themselves to a morning's work and then set the table with a delicious lunch, we prepare ourselves for Moose's return. Some return it turns out to be! Hilarious and sure to delight, we are bombarded with the cleanliness and fastidiousness of the ducks and the total annihilation of their ordered world by their friend. It turns out that they are preparing for a party. Moose manages to make every part of the plan a catastrophe!
Poor Moose! He doesn't mean to cause persistent problems for his friends. Off he goes. The party plans move into high gear, and all is ready! Where's Moose?
As I said, written words number two...they are repeated on each double page spread. But, their impact is created by perfectly chosen punctuation and lively digital art that says everything else that needs to be said. It's a story filled with fun and friendship, and will certainly leave young readers wanting to read other books just like it! That's exactly what we want, if they are to live a literate life!
Oh, oh...here he comes!
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Josephine, words by Patricia Hruby Powell and pictures by Christian Robinson. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2014. $19.99 ages 9 and up
Josephine became the DRESSER.
She helped dress the dancers
down in New Orleans.
Until her usefulness ran out.
And who just happened to be in town,
but the ragtag JONES FAMILY -
Papa, Mama, and Doll."
I have seen videos of Josephine Baker's performances (http://youtu.be/iVPJD3kaKRQ) and was totally intrigued to read a book for children about her.
In the early half of the twentieth century, Josephine was an internationally known 'star'. In fact, by 1927, she was known to be the highest paid entertainer working in Europe. While a book intended for a young audience that introduces her celebrity as a dancer and performer can show much about her life, it cannot possibly bring full disclosure. She was NOT a children's entertainer. That does not negate her importance in history.
This beautifully designed picture book autobiography does much to show Josephine to be a strong, willful and bold African-American woman who didn't allow barriers of race and poverty to keep her from her calling - dance! Her mother had had the same dream. It was quashed by the need to help provide for her beloved family. At her mother's side, Josephine soaked up the music and the dream:
"She flung her arms,
she flung her legs,
Like she flung her heart and her soul.
'Cause DANCIN' makes you HAPPY
when nothin' else will."
Unable to find work in any vaudeville show, Josephine became a dresser. She watched from the wings and learned the routines, in case a chance to perform presented itself. When she did get that chance, she added her own flair, much to the delight of every audience. She faced the same segregation that all colored entertainers faced at the time:
"The VOLCANIC PRESSURE
kept squeezing tighter,
way below the surface -
Paris offered artistic freedom, rapt audiences and a chance to do what she loved doing. It didn't matter her color or background. The audience wanted to be entertained. Josephine had found a perfect place to hone her craft and have her star rise. Eventually, she longed for home and fame in America. She became the 'FIRST and ONLY Negro Follies star. EVER.' But, discrimination forced her to return to Paris and show her gratitude to those who had supported her career. She worked for the French during WWII, and was lauded as a hero.
As dramatic as her stage life was, her personal life matched it. Following the war she married and, in her remaining lifetime, she adopted twelve children from varied cultural backgrounds. She dubbed them her Rainbow Tribe.
I love the design of this book! It is arranged as acts on stage, encompassing the various periods of time in her life and marked by her singular personality. There is so much to see, and to come to understand about the life she lived. I have great admiration for the team who created this book filled to the brim with Ms. Baker's personal triumphs, her mesmerizing personality and her great beauty. The acrylic artwork, the free verse text placed so purposefully and elegantly, the personal quotes and the celebration they create are exemplary. Bravo!
If reading this post has piqued your interest, please find the book at the library or in your nearest favorite bookstore. Then, you can really appreciate the brilliant pleasure of it. Further, you might want to check this out:
I cannot imagine my life without a book in my hand! I dream of a world where everyone reads because they can, and because they want to read. We need to celebrate every day; but, let's make today (and every March 5) special by reading aloud to our kids at school, our kids at home, our kids who live miles away from us, to our parents and grandparents, to our friends and neighbors. Make it a real celebration.
There is so much to share. There is such wonder in the pages of a book. We are truly blessed to live in a place where there are books in abundance, and the time to read them if we make it.
Spend precious time today reading aloud to all who listen...it will brighten your day and raise your spirits. Happy 'World Read Aloud Day' to all!
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
the SCRAPS book: Notes from a colorful life. Written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert. Beach Lane, Simon & Schuster. 2014. $19.99 ages 5 and up
to the aquarium,
while I watched
a book idea swam
into my brain.
I sketched and
before it floated
The first time I saw and heard Lois Ehlert speak to an equally rapt audience as I was myself, I wanted to be just like her...full of wonder at the world, dressed and adorned in a bounty of colors that made each of those in attendance swoon, and gifted with the heart and the talent that comes from the encouragement and freedom to choose your own path to success. As a fan, I have a Lois Ehlert shelf in my library. I will most happily add this new memoir to it!
Her career as children's book creator inspires at every turn of the page. With each new book published she celebrates the colors and forms found in our environments. Children are immediately attracted to the collage images that she continues to create. Even our youngest readers find familiar images everywhere they look on the page, and reason to stop and savor what is there for them.
In it, she shares her life, her wisdom, her art. Her many captioned photos offer an up-close and personal look at the life of this artist. Her varied and fascinating collections spark ideas and inspire new work. They are numerous and mindful of other world cultures and their history. Looking at the work she shares in this wonderful memoir, young readers are sure to be inspired to take a trip outside to see what they can find there. It doesn't have to cost money to create captivating scenes and beautiful bits of art. You just need a spot to work, some inspiration, and the time to create without restrictions of time, materials and the expectations of others.
"I created lots of art, though not for books right away. But I didn't worry. Everyone needs time to develop their dreams. An egg in the nest doesn't become a bird overnight."
I LOVE this book!
Monday, March 3, 2014
Florence Nightingale, written and illustrated by Demi. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan, Raincoast. 2014. $19.99 ages 8 and up
Florence Nightingale was born a child of great wealth. The family's lifestyle was extravagant, and privileged. It meant little to Florence. Rather than attend parties and social gatherings in her home, she preferred to be alone. Even as a very young girl she liked to imagine organizing health care for sick dolls and running a hospital that would help the sick and infirm.
Her family's wealth allowed for extensive travel. At each new destination, she was less enamored of the famous people she met and more aware of the plight of the poor and sick. She kept clear records of the facilities available to help others. She realized that nursing was her true calling. Her parents were not in agreement; in fact, they were aghast at such a thought. Further travels only intensified Florence's resolve. Her parents were finally convinced that she must find her own way.
It was the beginning of a long and illustrious career for a determined, thoughtful and brilliant woman. Florence did her research and developed new and successful ways to alleviate the pain and suffering of many, while also informing government of ways to improve the conditions in hospitals around the world. Her work was relentless. Despite suffering from lingering health issues throughout much of her life, Florence never gave up working to make change, consulting with governments to effect that change and constantly striving to improve thinking about the way in which care was provided.
Her legacy lives on:
"The International Red Cross began awarding the Florence Nightingale Medal in 1912, two years after her death. It honors outstanding nurses. We remember Florence Nightingale today as the driving force behind improvements in nursing during her time and as a woman of extraordinary vision, who believed that no problem, however big it seemed, was ever too big for her to solve."
A detailed timeline and a short list of suggested books for further reading are found following the text of her story.
Demi does a brilliant job of giving life to this epitome of the nursing profession. Her watercolor and mixed media images are rich and detailed, as is her story. While we are always aware of Florence in the accompanying artwork, she doesn't overpower with her presence. She is at the 'heart' of the story, but never the focus.