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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Polka Dot Penguin Pottery, written by Lenore Look and illustrated by Yumi Heo. Schwartz & Wade, Penguin. 2011. $18.99 ages 3 and up

"Inside, it feels like summer. A lady who is sweeping stops
and smiles like a flower facing the sun. "Welcome!" she says. "My name is Yumi. What would you like to paint?" She ties an apron on me."

Aspen Colorado Kim Chee Lee is our narrator, and resident author, for this smart and honest book about writer's block and finding inspiration. It's not her real name, but she uses it when writing stories about 'monkeys and elephants, aliens and robots, and, sometimes, about me'.

She has a process for her writing:

"Last but not least, choose words and line them up - like a fruit seller who chooses her best mangoes and pomegranates and bananas and puts them on display".

It is evident that she loves bright colors, pigtails and wearing dresses. Writer's block is causing great concern. GungGung and PohPoh offer a distraction...a relaxing walk into town. As they go, they pass all the familiar shops and watch as delivery people do their jobs and dogs do their business. A stop at Polka Dot Penguin Pottery offers surprise, good company and another block. As she watches others work at their pottery pieces, she is downhearted. Relaxing music doesn't seem to help; good advice finally does:

"You can only make a masterpiece if you're willing to make a mess".

Willing to let her imagination go and daring to try, Aspen finally achieves success and is very proud of her accomplishment. The end result of the visit is that she has a story to tell!

I love the fact that this book is vertically constructed. It gives young readers a new way of looking at books, and there are too few of them out there. The artist uses oil, pencil and collage to create her bright and sunny images. The pages are filled with interesting perspectives, detailed backgrounds and borders, and inspiration!

Aspen's message is clear. When faced with a block in your writing, seek other creative outlets. Try something you have never tried before, relax and let the process guide you through the mess and the joy of discovery.

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