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Monday, January 2, 2017

Beloved author publishes two beautiful picture books


Oskar Loves
By Britta Teckentrup
Prestel, 2016



Before I Wake Up
By Britta Teckentrup
Prestel, 2016

Britta Teckentrup, a popular German author-illustrator, has published two beautiful picture books, “Oscar Loves” and “Before I Wake Up.”

“Oskar Loves” tells the reader all the things that a happy, little black bird named Oskar loves. It begins, “This is Oskar./Oskar loves the deep blue ocean.../...and the soft green grass.”

The story continues with what Oskar loves about spring and autumn, cherries and pebbles, and other things in nature, but includes books and pictures.

The illustrations are simple but colorful, and attractive. Oskar himself is expressive though he is made up of only a few geometric shapes.

The story ends by inviting the reader to consider, “What do you love?” This would be fun for the reader and a parent or teacher.  

“Before I Wake Up” is the imaginative story of the girl narrator’s dreams. The rhyming text and detailed dark pictures take the reader on a journey with the girl and her stuffed lion friend who has become a real lion.

Together the girl and her lion fly on a bed that is being lifted like a hot air balloon by the moon. They fly over the seas and through storms, but she isn’t afraid because her lion protects her.

The girl swims with whales, rides on her lion’s back through a wood, and meets friendly wild creatures. She plays with her lion and feels brave with him near.

Finally, when night fades, the girl and her lion run out of the wood to a light meadow. The girl tells her lion friend goodbye and gets back on the hot air balloon bed to return home.

The illustrations are the strongest part of this story. They are beautiful and dreamlike, and full of small details to find.

The words sometimes sound a bit forced to make the rhymes. “In the blue meadow, I’m joined by my friend./We travel together in our world without end.” Or the rhymes are only near rhymes, such as “Together we fly/with arms stretched out wide/over the seas/and leave our worries behind.”

Once the A-B-C-B rhyme scheme is broken with an A-B-C-C pattern, “We feel the wind./We hear the sea./We sing our song./Together we’re strong.”

Nevertheless, I recommend the book for its beautiful, dreamlike pictures. Youngsters would enjoy following the characters through their adventure. It may also help them not to be afraid of their dreams.
     
About the Author/Illustrator


Britta Teckentrup is the author and illustrator of many beloved books for children, including The Memory Tree, The Odd One Out, and Grumpy Cat. Her artwork has been displayed in galleries around the world. She lives and works in Berlin, Germany, with her husband and young son.

    





Monday, October 24, 2016

Klassen’s Third, Final Hat Book Is Surprisingly Sweet



We Found a Hat
By Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press, 2016

Jon Klassen’s third in his hat trilogy, “We Found a Hat,” presents a simple problem. Two turtles find a hat in the desert. It looks good on both of them, but there are two turtles and only one hat.

In the beginning, the turtles agree it wouldn’t be right for only one of them to get the hat. The only right thing to do is to leave the hat where they found it and forget all about it.

But then one of the turtles can’t stop thinking about the hat. He considers going back and getting the hat when the other turtle is sleeping.

The turtle is about to secretly pick up the hat, but he asks the other turtle what he is dreaming about. His friend says he is dreaming that both of them have hats that look good on them.

The sleepless turtle looks at the hat and says, “We both have hats?” Then he goes back and falls asleep next to his friend. The last page shows both turtles wearing hats as they float off into the sky.

This book has Klassen’s minimalist style and deadpan humor with the pictures saying something beyond what the words are saying. But here the twist ending is tender and sweet, resolving the conflict through empathy and friendship instead of dark humor.


About the Author/Illustrator



Jon Klassen
is the author-illustrator of “I Want My Hat Back,” a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book, and “This Is Not My Hat,” winner of the Caldecott Medal. He is the illustrator of two Caldecott Honor books, “Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” and “Extra Yarn,” both written by Mac Barnett, as well as “House Held Up by Trees,” written by Ted Kooser. Originally from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Klassen now lives in Los Angeles.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Gandhi Story Helps Kids See How Their Actions Matter


Be the Change, A Grandfather Gandhi Story
Written by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus and Illustrated by Evan Turk
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
Ages: 4-8

The author Arun Gandhi is a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi who fought for Indian independence from Great Britain and represented a philosophy of bringing about change through peaceful means. In “Be the Change,” Arun tells a story of when he was a boy and lived in his grandfather’s Sevagram ashram or service village.

At that time, 350 followers of his grandfather lived in the village. Their purpose was to live simply and nonviolently. Everyone awoke at sunrise and attended a morning prayer meeting. Then they worked all day in service for one another. They washed clothes, planted vegetables, picked fruit, spun yarn, and did any other tasks that needed to be done.

In this story, Arun learns why his grandfather taught his followers not to waste. After Arun throws away a stub of a pencil, Grandfather Bapuji makes him find it. He tells the boy that waste is a violent action because when resources are low, people hoard. Those who are forced to do without may eventually strike out. Then he has the child draw a tree of violence with physical and passive violence as the branches. “Before you act, think how it would affect others,” he says.

Under physical violence, Arun pastes cards saying, “pushing” and “kicking.” On the passive violence side, he puts “bullying,” “eating more than my share,” and “throwing away the pencil.” Arun realizes that his thoughts and actions are important, not just to himself but to the world. Grandfather Gandhi puts his arm around him and tells him, “Be the change you wish to see in the world, Arun.”

This story helps children to think about the importance of their own thoughts and actions in promoting peace. It is also written well with imagery and dialogue that move the story along. The beautiful, colorful illustrations create mood and help to make the story a powerful one.

About the Authors and Illustrator:


Arun Gandhi is the fifth grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi. A journalist for over 30 years for the “India Times,” he now writes a blog for the “Washington Post.” His first children’s book was “Grandfather Gandhi.” He serves as president of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute and travels the world speaking to government leaders, as well as university, high school and younger students about the practices of peace and nonviolence. He lives in Rochester, NY. Visit him at arungandhi.org.






Bethany Hegedus is the author of “Between Us Baxters” and “Truth with a Capital T,” both Bank Street Best Books of the Year, and coauthor of “Grandfather Gandhi.” She owns and operates the Writing Barn, a popular writing workshop and retreat center in Austin, TX. She teaches widely and speaks across the country. Visit her at bethanyhegedus.com.








Evan Turk is an Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor winner, the author/illustrator of “The Storyteller,” and the illustrator of “Grandfather Gandhi.” Evan is originally from Colorado and loves being in nature, traveling, and learning about other cultures through drawing. He is a graduate of Parsons and continues his studies as a member of Dalvero Academy. Visit him at evanturk.com.  




Monday, July 25, 2016

Lift Your Light Tells Untold Story of Slave Cavern Guide


Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop Slave Explorer
Written by Heather Henson and Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, September 6, 2016
Ages 4 to 8

“The past is like a cave sometimes, dim and dusty, and full of twisting ways,” begins “Lift Your Light a Little Higher,” which tells the story of Stephen Bishop, a slave who served as a tour guide in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave from 1838 to 1857.

"I know a few things ‘bout leading folks around inside the dark, showing off sights that have never been seen,” the story continues in the voice of its main character.

As a cave guide, Bishop gained notoriety in his day, writes author Heather Henson in an author’s note. Writers who visited the cave said he was eloquent and intelligent in his deep knowledge of the cave, the longest cave system in the world with more than four hundred miles of mapped underground passageways.

Henson wanted to tell Bishop’s story because despite his being known when he was living, his story had been largely forgotten. She had to imagine what he might say because so little had been written about him.

Though it was against the law to teach slaves to read and write, Henson taught himself to write when he showed tourists how to make marks with candle flames on the cavern walls. They wrote their names and he learned his letters.

He was the first person to draw an extensive map of Mammoth Cave and the first to cross a previously impassable chasm called the “Bottomless Pit.” He also discovered a new species of eyeless fish and albino crawfish in the underground rivers of Mammoth Cave.

“Down here, I am Guide – a man able to walk before other men, not behind,” says the narrator, “a man able to school even the brightest scholar: a man able to bring a crowd of folks deep into the belly of the earth and back again, safe and sound. A man – down here, that’s what I am – a man, not just a slave.”

Bishop married and had a son. His master promised him that one day he would free him and his family. It turned out that Bishop wasn’t freed until one year before his death at 37 of unknown cause. He was buried near the entrance to Mammoth Cave.

The story is dramatically and lyrically told. The illustrations are even more beautiful and dramatic. All of the well-constructed images are two-page spreads. They boldly speak to the reader drawing him/her into the story of the slave cave explorer and guide. 
  
About the Author and Illustrator:


Heather Henson lives on a farm in Kentucky with her husband and three children, and is the author of several picture books and novels, including “That Book Woman” and “Dream of Night.”
 








Bryan Collier is a two-time Caldecott Honor winner for “Dave the Potter” and “Trombone Shorty.” He is also the author and illustrator of the Coretta Scott King Award–winning book “Uptown,” illustrator of “Martin’s Big Words,” which was also a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book; Rosa, which received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award; and the #1 New York Times bestselling “Barack Obama.” Mr. Collier lives in New York.

    





Saturday, July 16, 2016

Inspirational, funny book helps kids choose happiness


Ishi: Simple Tips from a Solid Friend 
By Akiko Yabuki
POW! A division of powerhouse Packaging & Supply, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, 2016

“Ishi: Simple Tips from a Solid Friend” is a self-help book for children. A white rock with two black dots for eyes and a black line for a mouth introduces himself as Ishi, which means rock in Japanese.

The optimistic, good-natured rock offers advice for how to feel better when you’re not having a good day and tells readers they can choose to be happy.

Ishi tells readers “When something feels impossible, I sleep and rest. And try again the next day!” and “When I feel bottled up, I move my body. Run, swim, climb, a tree!” Sometimes the pictures tell a joke with word play. For instance, Ishi is pictured in a bottle when he says, “When I feel bottled up.”

The best thing about the book is the beautiful, colorful, well-constructed photographs that show Ishi lying among puzzle pieces, resting on puffy white sheets, stuck in a bottle, or smiling in a tree. They are expressive as well as beautiful and help the reader make friends with the encouraging rock.

At the beginning of the book, Akiko Yabuki writes, “How to use this book,” and she lists, 1., Enjoy the book. 2. Choose happiness. 3. Share your happiness. 4. Pass Ishi to a friend. 5. Enjoy their happiness. And she writes, “About this book: Stinky days. We all have them. After having one too many, I found Ishi. Ishi bcame my rock. Ishi gave me tips. Simple tips. Tips that made me happy. I hope they make you happy too!”

“Ishi,” first found success as a self-published book. In March 2014, Yabuki did a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to self-publish the book. On her website for the book, she says the campaign raised $9,976 from 153 backers, she calls happiness ambassadors. She lists them by name on the last page of the book.

The author wrote a blog on the book’s website where she kept her Kickstarter backers updated about her progress in publishing the book and its success in being distributed to stores in Europe and the United States. The book also has a Facebook page and Yabuki frequently posts new photographs of Ishi in new environments.  

Last year, the self-published book won several awards including a Gold Award from National Parenting Publications and a Silver Award in the gift book category from the Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Awards.

It is currently being published by POW! a children’s book imprint of powerhouse Packaging & Supply, Inc., a book producer and co-edition publisher whose publishing partners include Chronicle Books, Random House, Sterling, Running Press, St. Martin’s Press and many others.



Akiko Yabuki is a producer of edutainment, entertaining content that educates the audience. Akiko learned the ABCs of edutainment as a global producer for Sesame Workshop, the producer of the Sesame Street programs worldwide. Akiko lives in Brooklyn NY with her husband, a black lab named Pono, and a rock solid friend named ISHI.

    





Thursday, July 14, 2016

Congrats to "On Bird Hill" winner

And the winner is ... Kristie Miner.
Kristie is the winner of a free copy of Jane Yolen's "On Bird Hill" and a window bird feeder.
Congratulations!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Light-hearted Story Tells Kids It’s OK to Be Different


A Tiger Tail (Or What Happened to Anya on Her First Day of School)  
By Mike Boldt
Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, 2016
Ages: 4-8

Anya wakes up on the first day of school and discovers she has grown a tiger tail. She is horrified. What will she do?

Her parents aren’t any help. They tell her not to worry it looks nice with her hair. She’s the same wonderful Anya she’s always been.

She tries to pull it off but it’s firmly attached. She tries to cover it up with clothes, but it pokes through. She’ll pretend to be sick, but mom makes her go to school. She misses the bus on purpose, but dad drives her to school.

At school, she crashes into a boy. They introduce themselves. His name is Ben and he has rabbit ears. In the class picture, she fits right in. Other children are unique too. Another boy has big furry ears. A girl is in a wheelchair. Another boy wears large glasses.

“Maybe a tiger tail wasn’t so bad,” she thinks. “After all, it did go well with her hair.”

The colorful expressive pictures complement the humorous story. They actively move the story along.

Without being heavy-handed, the story tells children that it’s OK to be different.

About the Author/Illustrator:


Mike Boldt is the author and illustrator of “123 versus ABC” and the illustrator of “I Don’t Want to Be a Frog,” among others. He lives in Stony Plain, Alberta, with his wife and three children. The first day of school tended to make him a little nervous too. Learn more at mikeboldt.ca.